Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Recovery of threatened and endangered species is among the most important tasks delegated to the Fish and Wildlife Service; it is also one of the most challenging. The decline of many of these plants and animals that are at the brink of extinction is usually the result of a long history of decreasing habitat quality and quantity. By the time many species are listed, they are critically close to being lost forever. Rarely, stabilizing the population and/or the remaining habitat is the most that can be done. In other instances, the Service and its partners in conservation are able to arrest and reverse the decline of species and re-establish them as functional components of their ecosystems. Recovery is achieved because of the protections and conservation mechanisms provided by the Act, and these successes are much celebrated by the American people. Through the continuation of these cooperative efforts, many more success stories will be realized, resulting in continued conservation of our Nation's natural heritage.
The greatest challenge is reversing long-term declines while finding innovative conservation and management actions that serve to both benefit the species and accommodate society's other goals, including economic growth. Fortunately, the Service and its partners have been largely successful in balancing these two challenges. In many cases the goals are directly linked, and it is being learned that achieving one facilitates the other. Sustaining economic growth in areas suffering chronic environmental declines is frequently impossible, and we recognize that without a strong economy, a healthy environment and the benefits it provides will be lost.
While there are many successes detailed in this report, much work remains to be done. Ultimately, recovery of listed species must be coordinated through partnerships aimed at conservation of the ecosystems upon which they depend, and such management actions must be carried out in the context of ongoing and anticipated human use.
Although it is sometimes pragmatic and necessary to address specific threats affecting individual species, we strive to avoid managing our lands and resources with a focus on one species only. To maintain a single species focus is to invite an endless progression of extinction crises. Rather, by managing at the ecosystem level, broad environmental gains can be secured and all species sharing those ecosystems will be benefitted.
The Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies in the Department of the Interior are exploring ways that existing authorities may be used to prevent the degradation of ecosystems, which ultimately leads to endangered species listings and "last resort" recovery planning. The Department is committed to increasing its emphasis on ecosystem management, and will be making greater efforts to promote the partnerships essential for accomplishment of the important challenges facing us all.