U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Recovery of an Endangered Species

Recovery of listed species is the cornerstone and ultimate purpose of our Endangered Species Program. It is the process by which listed species are recovered and their future safeguarded to the point that protections under the ESA are no longer needed.  Watch this short narrated slideshow on Recovery. We work with a variety of partners to recover endangered and threatened species. Recovery tools include restoring and protecting habitat, reducing bycatch of listed species during commercial fishing activities, removing non-native invasive species, and breeding species in captivity for release into their historic range once threats have been addressed.

Collaboration is critical to achieving recovery. Recovery often hinges on Federal, State, and local agencies, International governments, Tribal governments, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, landowners, and other concerned citizens working together.

Learn About Recovery

endangered species recovery slideshow
Endangered Species Recovery Slideshow

Watch the Slide Show

We are responsible for the following activities:

Aleutian Shield Fern. Photo Credit: Mike Boylan/USFWS

1) Planning

We prepare recovery plans for listed species. Recovery plans identify and prioritize actions necessary to conserve a species in the short-term and ultimately recover a species. The plans synthesize the best available information about the species’ life history, habitat requirements, and threats.  Click here to see recovery plans for species in Alaska.

2) Conservation Activities

We collaborate with many partners to carry out the actions identified in recovery plans.  See what we are doing for short-tailed albatross and the reintroduction of the Steller's Eider.

3) Issue Recovery Permits

We issue recovery permits that allow people to work with listed species in a research or management capacity. Actions that are permitted must improve our ability to recover listed species.

4) Monitor & Assess

We monitor and conduct assessments (such as 5-year reviews) that track species’ status and threats over time.

5) Change Species’ ESA Status

We downlist species’ status from endangered to threatened as populations increase or threats are addressed. Likewise we reclassify their status from threatened to endangered as threats increase or populations decline.  A proposed rule to downlist wood bison from endangered to threatened can be viewed here.

6) Delist

We delist species when their status improves to the point of recovery and they can be removed from the threatened and endangered species list. Recovery is measured not only by population health, but also by assurance that threats are addressed.

After Recovery

After a species has recovered and is removed from the threatened and endangered species list, we monitor that species for a minimum of 5 years to ensure the population is secure.  As a result of recovery actions three species that occur in Alaska have been delisted: the Aleutian Canada Goose (Branta canadensis leucopareia)( 2001); the Arctic peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus tundrius) (1994), and the American peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum) (1999). 

Links to more information about Recovery

Our National Recovery Program Overview website has more detailed information about the Recovery process, including policies and guidelines. The Endangered Species Act provides a critical safety net for America’s native fish, wildlife, and plants.

Five-Year Reviews

Section 4 of the ESA requires us to review the status of each federally-listed species every five years. Five-year reviews evaluate whether a federally listed species should be removed from the list, reclassified from endangered to threatened or vice versa, or if the species' classification should not change. Five-year reviews ensure that listed species have the appropriate level of protection under the ESA. See the reviews we've completed in the sidebar to the right.

    The best available scientific data is considered for a five-year review, particularly information that has become available since the current listing determination or most recent status review. Such information includes but is not limited to:

    • species biology (including  population trends, distribution, abundance, demographics, and genetics);
    • amount, distribution, and suitability of habitat;
    • conservation measures that have been implemented that benefit the species;
    • threat status and trends;
    • other new information, data, or corrections including: changes in taxonomy or nomenclature, identification of erroneous information contained in the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; and improved analytical methods.

    Five-Year Reviews assess: (1) whether new information suggests that the species is increasing, declining, or stable; (2) whether existing threats are increasing, unchanged, reduced, or eliminated; (3) if there are any new threats; and, (4) if new information calls into question any of the conclusions in the original listing determination as to the species' classification.

    The five-year review provides a recommendation, with supporting information, on whether a species classification should be changed. However, it does not change the species' classification. A species classification cannot be changed until a formal rulemaking process is completed, including a public review and comment period.

    Recovery Plans for listed species in Alaska

    *Written by the Canadian Recovery Team

    Spectacled eider with brood
    Spectacled eider with brood. Photo credit: Yukon Delta NWR

    5-year reviews completed for species in Alaska