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Facts About Endangered Species


According to scientists, more than one and one-half million species exist on the earth today. However, recent estimates state that at least 20 times that many species inhabit the planet.

In the United States, 735 species of plants and 496 species of animals are listed as threatened or endangered.

266 of these listed species have recovery plans currently under development.

There are more than 1,000 animal species endangered worldwide.

There are more than 3,500 protected areas in existence worldwide. These areas include parks, wildlife refuges and other reserves. They cover a total of nearly 2 million square miles (5 million square km), or 3% of our total land area.

Aquatic species, which are often overlooked, are facing serious trouble. One third of the United States’ fish species, two-thirds of its crayfish species, and almost three-quarters of its mussel species are in trouble.

Sources of Information: National Wildlife Federation, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

 

 

Endangered Species Terms

VULNERABLE SPECIES - A species particularly at risk because of low or declining numbers or small range, but not a threatened species.

  threatened species – a species whose population is not yet low enough to be in immediate danger of extinction, but who certainly faces serious problems. If the problems affecting these species aren’t resolved, it is probable that the species will become endangered. The eastern indigo snake and the red kangaroo are examples of threatened species.

  endangered species – a specie, plant or animal, that is in immediate danger of becoming extinct. Its numbers are usually low, and it needs protection in order to survive. The Siberian tiger, the southern sea otter, the snow leopard, the green pitcher plant, and thousands of other plants and animals are endangered worldwide.

  extinct species an extinct species is one that is no longer living. The passenger pigeon, the dodo, and the Stegosaurus are examples of extinct species. These animals no longer exist on the earth.

© 1997 National Wildlife Federation.

 

Listing of Endangered Species


A declining species has to be added to the official list of endangered and threatened species before it receives any federal protection. But just getting on the list can be the hardest part. The Fish and Wildlife Service maintains a current list of endangered and threatened species online.

How Does A Species Get "Listed?"

 Any person may petition the government to list a species as either endangered or threatened. An endangered species is any species "in danger of extinction through all or a significant portion of its range." A threatened species is any species "which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future." The decision to list a species is supposed to be based solely on science, not politics. The listing process is designed to take no more than 27 months. (In some limited circumstances an expedited or emergency listing may be given temporarily.)

What Is A Candidate Species?

Unfortunately, many species sit on the "candidate" list for years and years owing to adverse political pressure or funding constraints. If there is enough evidence that the species needs to be listed, but there is inadequate funding to finish the process, the Service usually declares the species' listing "warranted but precluded." For example, the Florida Black Bear has waited on the candidate list since 1992. 

What Is A Candidate Conservation Agreement?

A candidate conservation plan is supposed to help implement needed conservation measures for declining wildlife before they need federal protection. Unfortunately, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service sometimes use candidate conservation agreements to avoid needed listings when a species is politically controversial. There's an obvious problem with relying on future, unenforceable promises when a species needs to be listed immediately. The Atlantic Salmon, for example, is in dire need of federal protection, but a voluntary conservation plan by Maine has given the agency an excuse not to list it.

Source of Information:  © Endangered Species Coalition. 

 

Recovery Plans

 

What is a recovery plan?

Recovery plans, as part of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Reovery Program, are designed to reverse the decline of a threatened or endangered species and eventually bring the population to a self-sustaining level. Each plan should include:

  1. a description of the species’ current situation, including any relevant scientific data;
  2. a recovery objective (for example, a target population number), and a list of criteria for indicating when the objective has been achieved;
  3. an implementation schedule, including priorities of tasks and cost estimates;
  4. an appendix identifying appropriate external reviews of the plan, and any additional pertinent information.
A recovery plan may include a myriad of different options including reintroduction, habitat acquisition, captive propagation, habitat restoration and protection, population assessments, research and technical assistance for landowners, and public education. Unfortunately, implementation of a recovery plan is not mandatory, so once it is finalized, the plan may just collect dust on a shelf.


How is a recovery plan drafted?

There is no deadline for finalizing a recovery plan. In addition, FWS may decide not to draft a recovery plan if it determines that "such plans would not contribute to [the species'] conservation."

The drafting process begins after FWS Regional Directors decide whether a plan would, indeed, benefit the species in question. The Regional Directors then appoint a recovery team, whose members are selected based on their expertise with the species and with relevant scientific disciplines. The team is supposed to include representatives from interested constituencies--for example, state, federal, or tribal agencies, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, and commercial enterprises.

The actual process of preparing the recovery plan varies from circumstance to circumstance. FWS can provide some guidance for plan development by setting priorities or arbitrating disputes between individual team members.

During and after the drafting process, independent peer review of the plan may be solicited. In addition, there is a public comment period before the plan is finalized and implemented.


Does recovery planning work?

Critics of recovery planning often say that the process either doesn’t work, costs too much, or both.

The Endangered Species Act as a whole has been quite successful in its mission of halting the decline of endangered and threatened species. about 64% of mammal species and 68% of bird species listed in 1973 were classified as "improving and stable" by 1994. Recovery planning has clearly played a role in this success. But very few species have actually been recovered and delisted. Recovery takes a long time because it must reverse a decline that has occurred over the past two centuries. The recovery period may depend on the status of the species population, the gestation rate of a species, or other biological factors. However, the length of recovery time also depends largely on how quickly an effective recovery plan is developed and implemented. This is largely affected by budget constraints, political pressure, and limited scientific data.

Meanwhile, FWS and National Marine Fisheries Service expenditures on recovery planning are quite limited and should be increased. In FY 1999 only 30% of the total endangered species budget went to recovery planning. Moreover, recovery planning helps limit costs to individuals and states by taking proactive steps to protect species before privately-funded mitigation is necessary.


How can recovery planning be improved?

The National Academy of Sciences recommended that all recovery planning should include an element of "recovery plan guidance," which details how the ESA should be implemented to recover the species. NAS also recommended that a rational, scientific evaluation of survial and recovery goals is needed. These changes would help make recovery plans quantifiable and based on principles of conservation biology. The resulting meaningful recovery plans will make the ESA much more effective and lead to better recovery (and hence more rapid delisting) of species. In addition, if recovery plans identify the types of activities that are likely to violate the ESA, predictability will be increased and controversy will diminish when specific projects are evaluated concerning their impact on listed species and their habitat.

Currently, there is no explicit requirement in the law for federal action agencies to implement recovery plans, nor are plans typically detailed enough to clearly establish whether they are being followed. Involved states and federal agencies evade implementation of recovery plans, thus increasing the burden on FWS, NMFS and private citizens to take actions to recover listed species. For example, the Mexican spotted owl was listed as threatened in 1993 due to high logging rates on U.S. Forest Service lands. The Recovery Plan established specific guidelines for protecting known Mexican spotted owls and their habitat. The U.S. Forest Service has violated the guidelines of the Recovery Plan by logging protected habitat and spotted owl nest areas (called Protected Activity Centers).

The Endangered Species Coalition believes that requiring the government to develop and implement recovery plans according to set deadlines, and with improved scientific standards, would greatly increase the rate of recovery and delisting.

Source of Information:  © The Endangered Species Coalition. 

 

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Endangered Species will survive with YOUR help!