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Recovery Program: Endangered and Threatened Species, 1994

Recovery Successes


Examples of Recovery Successes

There have been many successes of the recovery program; reclassifications, delistings, and significant steps toward achieving species recovery objectives. Highlights of a few of these successes are summarized below.

Bald eagle

This species formerly nested throughout North America. Population declines were attributed to habitat loss, illegal shooting, and the effects of DDT on reproductive success. In addition to the DDT ban, the eagle benefitted from nest site protection, aggressive habitat management, and reintroductions. Many States have successfully reestablished nesting populations by translocating young birds from areas with healthy populations into suitable, unoccupied habitat. Public awareness campaigns and vigorous law enforcement have helped to reduce illegal shooting of eagles. Bald eagle numbers in the lower 48 States have increased from approximately 417 nesting pairs in 1963 to more that 4,000 pairs in 1993. In addition, there are an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 juvenile bald eagles in this part of the range. As a result of the significant progress toward recovery, on July 12, 1994, the Service proposed to reclassify the bald eagle from endangered to threatened in all but four States. Subsequent action reclassified the species as threatened in all of the lower 48 states.

JPG-Bald eagle chicks

Black-footed ferret

A long history of prairie dog control programs reduced populations of the black-footed ferret by reducing the ferrets' preferred prey. Once thought to be extinct, blackfooted ferrets were rediscovered in 1981 near Meeteetse, Wyoming. Canine distemper devastated that population in the late 1980s. A captive propagation program, founded by the 18 survivors of this population, has been extremely successful, resulting in a population of over 400 by mid-1992. In the fall of 1991, 49 juvenile ferrets were released in the Shirley Basin area of southeast Wyoming as part of a nonessential experimental population. The release was the result of considerable landowner cooperation. About 55 percent of the management area where the ferrets were released is in private ownership. A similar release was conducted in north-central Montana and the Conata Basin/Badlands area of South Dakota in 1994. Releases continue at the Shirley Basin site in Wyoming, where the Service has confirmed at least 10 surviving ferrets and 6 young born in the wild resulting from the release. Releases of captive bred ferrets will continue in other States as new sites are identified and releases are coordinated with involved agencies and landowners.

JPG-Black-footed ferret

Greenback cutthroat trout

Originally listed as endangered in 1967, the greenback cutthroat trout was reclassified as threatened in 1978. This native trout declined due to the introduction of nonnative rainbow, brook, and brown trout that out competed or hybridized with the greenback cutthroat trout in its native streams. At the time of its original listing, only two small historic populations were known to exist. Since then, the Service has restored the species in over 40 lakes and streams in and around Rocky Mountain National Park and other areas in Colorado. There is catch and release fishing for the species in 15 lakes, and a new captive broodstock is being established by the Colorado Division of Wildlife for future stocking. The species is nearing its recovery goals and, with continued reintroduction of the greenback cutthroat trout into its native streams and continued control of nonnative trout, the species may be delisted by the year 2000.

JPG-Greenback cutthroat trout

Haleakala Silversword

The Haleakala silversword is found only in a 250-acre area in the crater and on the outer slopes of Haleakala, Maui's largest volcano. Population declines were attributed to habitat disturbances, detrimental effects from introduced species, and vandalism. The Maui Chamber of Commerce felt so strongly about the declining populations that it petitioned Congress to intervene with efforts to save the species. As a result, the Haleakala National Park was established. Although the establishment of the park eliminated some of the threats, others continued and the silversword was listed in 1991. Now, the most dangerous threat to the plant is the loss of the localized, endemic pollinators. These pollinators are being threatened by the Argentine ant, a non-native species that preys on native insects. Biologists are currently working on an effective control for the ants, but have not been successful. A collaborative effort by the National Park Service and the Service has saved the Haleakala silversword from extinction.

JPG-Haleakala silversword

Whooping Crane

The whooping crane is not believed to have been numerous prior to the development of the western United States and Canada. However, hunting, the conversion of the prairies to agriculture, and other human disturbances greatly reduced their numbers. More modern activities, such as dam and powerline construction along their principal migration route, and dredging in their principal wintering area, continue to result in deaths of individual whooping cranes or degrade their essential habitats. The Service, through whooping crane recovery partnerships with the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and the International Crane Foundation began the recovery process. Through the Partners for Wildlife Program the Service has helped restore whooping crane roosting habitat on the Platte River. This area serves as habitat for migrating whooping cranes, which prefer to roost in wide channels free of vegetation and other obstructions. Agreements have also been signed with the National Audubon Society and individual private landowners to clear trees and other vegetation from the channels, providing open habitat not only for the endangered whooping crane, but for sandhill cranes, shorebirds, and other migrating waterfowl as well. A captive propagation program has also been developed to reintroduce birds to the wild and now there are now more than 200 birds, which includes 122 held in captivity. Through these efforts, the whooping crane population continues to increase in North America. Several goals of the recovery plan have been implemented through these cooperative ventures, and the whooping cranes are closer to being recovered as a result.

JPG-Whooping crane

American peregrine falcon

This widespread species occurs throughout much of North America. Population declines were attributed to habitat loss, illegal shooting, and the effects of DDT on reproductive success. The falcon has benefitted greatly from cooperative recovery efforts, such as the ban on pesticides (which caused thinning of falcon eggshells and adult mortality) and from the broad-based public involvement in the raising of thousands of falcons in captivity for their eventual reintroduction to the wild. Populations of the American peregrine falcon in southwestern Canada, the northern Rocky Mountain States, and the Pacific coast States were greatly depressed or extirpated. Over 3400 young American peregrine falcons were released to promote the species' recovery. These releases and many other recovery activities have helped to stabilize the falcon's population. The Service intends to propose removal of the American peregrine falcon from the list of threatened and endangered wildlife.

JPG-American peregrine falcon

These, and many other species, have clearly benefitted from protection under the Act. With persistence and time, it is possible to make a u-turn on the road to extinction.

Monitoring Recovered Species

A species is considered "recovered" when the threats that initially led to a species' listing are corrected, when specified recovery goals (in terms of numbers, distribution, etc.) have been met, and when protection under the Act is no longer needed. Reaching recovery requires concerted efforts on the part of Federal and State authorities, as well as private parties.

The 1988 amendments to the Act recognized a potential conflict involving removal of just recovered species from the protective oversight of the Act. If a newly recovered species were no longer protected under the Act, the threats that led to its listing might resume and once again endanger the species. Section 4 of the Act was amended by adding a requirement that recovered species be monitored for at least 5 years after delisting. The Service cooperates with State agencies and other partners to accomplish monitoring for those species within State jurisdiction except in cases where the species are wide-ranging or migratory beyond State lines. In the event of a "significant risk to the well being" of any delisted species, the Secretary must use his emergency authority under section 4(b)(7) to relist the species.

Delistings and Reclassifications

Delisting (removing species from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants) can occur for one of three reasons: (1) species extinction, (2) species recovery, or (3) more accurate scientific or commercial data becomes available. Delisting, resulting from successful recovery, is the culmination of a process involving planning recovery objectives, implementation of objectives, and evaluation and monitoring to ensure that all objectives have been met.

Reclassification from endangered to threatened is an intermediate step in the recovery process and signals significant success in an endangered species' recovery. The 1994 reclassification of the bald eagle represented over 20 years of coordinated efforts to reverse population declines, preserve habitat, and address pesticide contamination problems in the environment.

The Service is considering the species listed in table 2 for delisting or reclassification. In some cases, status surveys are underway to determine the appropriateness of these actions; in other cases, the Service has already determined appropriateness and is preparing proposals to carry out delisting or reclassification. While most of these reclassifications and delistings are a result of recovery having being achieved, some of these delistings and reclassifications are a result of taxonomic changes in the species' classification (e.g., cuneate bidens, Lloyd's hedgehog cactus) or discovery of additional secure populations (e.g., Maguire daisy). Others are a result of effective protection measures afforded to the species under the Act through the recovery process.

Table 2: Species Under Consideration for Delisting or Reclassification.

American Peregrine Falcon - western
Cui-ui
Eureka Valley plants
Hawaiian hawk
Loch Lomond coyote-thistle
MacFarlane's four-o'clock
Pahrump poolfish
Truckee barberry
Bald eagle
Cape Sable seaside sparrow
Inflated heelsplitter
Magazine Mountain shagreen
Slackwater darter
Robbins cinquefoil
Eskimo curlew


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