As Endangered Species Day (May 18) nears, I am remembering my small part in the reintroduction of the remarkable black-footed ferret. Along with Service employees and partners, I released 20 ferrets into four prairie dog towns on a trip to South Dakota last November. The ferret feeds on prairie dogs and uses their burrows for shelter.
These members of the weasel family were considered extinct or nearly extinct when a small population was located in Mellette County, South Dakota, in 1964. When that population died out, and captive breeding failed in 1979, the ferret was again presumed extinct. In 1981, a population was discovered in Meeteetse, Wyoming. This time, captive breeding worked, and in 1991 ferrets were reintroduced into several areas.
Black-footed ferret at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in northern Colorado. USFWS photo
Currently, the Black-Footed Ferret Recovery Implementation Team puts the total wild population of black-footed ferrets about 1,000. We also rightly celebrate other ESA successes and milestones in species recovery like the Lake Erie Water Snake, brown pelican and Tennessee purple coneflower. But more than that, we celebrate the thousands of Service employees out on the ground every day, working with landowners, drafting conservation agreements, helping agencies and developers make sure their projects avoid harming listed species. The Endangered Species Act is more than a law. It’s a living, breathing testament to the power of persistence.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Wild beasts and birds are by right not the property merely of people today, but the property of the unborn generations, whose belongings we have no right to squander.” I would suggest that we ought rightly to think of these resources more as a sacred trust, but Roosevelt’s sense of obligation to the future is spot on.
The Tennessee purple coneflower was listed in June 1979. Photo credit USDA/NRCS
Endangered Species Day is an opportunity for people young and old to learn about the importance of protecting endangered species and everyday actions that people can take to help protect our nation’s disappearing wildlife and last remaining open space. Protecting America’s wildlife and plants today is a legacy we leave to our children and grandchildren, so that all Americans can experience the rich variety of native species that help to define our nation.
Today, the ESA serves as one of the most powerful environmental laws in history, and has prevented the extinction of hundreds of species from extinction.
Our overarching priority is to accelerate species’ recovery across the nation, while making it easier for people to coexist with these species. We are also committed to working with landowners to make ESA implementation less complex, less contentious and more effective.
We plan to move forward with other proposed changes to our administration of the act designed to improve recovery, enhance our ability to achieve meaningful conservation on the ground and better engage the resources of our partners to meet the goals of the act. Dedicated Service employees and hard-working partners are what make us successful in saving species from extinction and helping them recover.
For more information on how you can help the Service celebrate Endangered Species Day and view currently scheduled Service events being held nationwide, please visit http://www.fws.gov/endangered/ESDay/2012.html