The Center for Biological Diversity has launched a groundbreaking report, On Time, On Target: How the Endangered Species Act Is Saving America’s Wildlife, a powerful new review of the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act.
The report provides an in-depth look at 110 protected species from all 50 states — from whales and sea turtles to foxes and whooping cranes — to determine how well the Act is working across the country.
The results are stunning: 90 percent of the studied species are recovering right on time to meet recovery goals set by federal scientists.
The study is a potent rebuke of recent critiques by right-wing politicians who deem the Act a failure. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The Center found that, again and again, wildlife and plants from every corner of the country are being saved from extinction and placed squarely on the road to recovery by the Endangered Species Act.
You can check out species in your area on this new interactive regional map of the 110 species.
Ultimately, the report should transform our national conversation about the strength and success of the Endangered Species Act, giving the Act solid protection from those who want to tear it down.
This is a great moment for all of us who care deeply for endangered plants and animals,so please sign the Center for Biological Diversity’s petition and ask your senators to support the Endangered Species Act.
On the next pages, you can find some highlights of species who have been saved by the Act, or you can read the full report at www.ESAsuccess.org and share this important step forward on Facebook and Twitter.
Black-footed ferret. This 2-foot-long, black-masked member of the weasel family once occurred in central grasslands and basins from southern Canada to Texas but is now one of the most endangered mammals in North America. In the early 1900s, the United States was likely home to more than 5 million ferrets. But ferrets, which hunt prairie dogs for food and live in their burrows, were almost wiped out early in the 20th century after agricultural development and rodent poisons devastated prairie dog populations.
13 years after they were listed as endangered in 1967, the last captive ferret died, and the animals were thought to be extinct in North America. Then in 1981, a small relic population was discovered in a Wyoming prairie dog colony. Between 1991 and 1999, about 1,200 ferrets from that population were released in Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Arizona and along the Utah/Colorado border. At least two of those reintroduced populations are established and no longer require releases of captive-raised ferrets. Biologists estimate there are now a total of about 1,410 black-footed ferrets living in the wild.
American crocodile. In pre-Columbian days, the coastal tip of South Florida was literally crawling with thousands of American crocodiles. By the time they were listed as endangered in 1975, hunting for sport and skins as well as overcollection for zoos and museums had reduced their numbers to as few as 200. With the entire population, including only 10 to 20 breeding females, living in one small area of northeastern Florida Bay, American crocodiles were in stark danger of becoming little more than a memory.
Only eight years after gaining Endangered Species Act protection, populations had grown to about 1,000, and crocodiles had already returned to much of their historic range, from Biscayne Bay and Key Largo to Florida’s southwestern coast. In 2005, the crocodiles’ numbers reached 2,085, and two years later the species was downlisted to threatened.
California least tern. The decline of these small seabirds that like to fish for anchovies and smelt in the shallow coastal waters of central and Southern California began in the late 19th century, due to the desirability of their feathers for women’s hats. In the decades after the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1916 ended that threat, populations again began to plummet as habitat was wiped out by development and recreational pressures.
By the 1940s, terns were extirpated from most beaches of Orange and Los Angeles counties and were considered sparse elsewhere. When listed as endangered in 1970, just 225 nesting tern pairs were recorded in California. Protection of nest beaches from development and disturbance, and active predator-control programs, allowed the species to steadily increase to about 7,100 pairs in California in 2004. In 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended downlisting of the California least tern. In 2010, a population of 6,568 was recorded.
P.S. You can download a PDF of the 16-page report here.
Photo credits: American alligator and island fox photos courtesy National Park Service, Black-footed ferret by Randy Matchett, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, California least tern courtesy Flickr Commons/USFWS Pacific Southwest Region