December 19, 2013
Georgia Parham 812-334-4261 x 1203
The Endangered Species Act: Four Decades of Conservation Success
The Kirtland's warbler is among many imperiled plants and animals helped by the Endangered Species Act, which celebrates its 40th anniversary on December 28. Photo by Joel Trick/USFWS.
When President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act on December 28, 1973, the bald eagle, gray wolf and peregrine falcon were struggling to survive in the Midwest and across the continent. Forty years later, thanks to protection afforded by the Endangered Species Act, these species have recovered. The Midwest is home to a huge variety of wildlife; some are instantly recognizable, like the bald eagle, and some rare species are not so well known.
Around the Midwest are stories of creative approaches to conserving rare plants and wildlife. In Illinois, in the shadow of downtown Chicago, efforts are underway to help to the Hine's emerald dragonfly, the only endangered dragonfly, the threatened lakeside daisy and the endangered leafy prairie clover. In Wisconsin, partners around the state have committed to conserve the Karner blue butterfly, enrolling more than 800,000 acres of land in a statewide habitat conservation plan for the species.
Freshwater mussels, sometimes called silent sentinels because of their sensitivity to water pollution, are responding to recovery efforts in Minnesota, where partners are raising and releasing juvenile Higgins eye and winged mapleleaf pearlymussels into the Mississippi River. In Ohio, the purple cat’s paw mussel, once feared extinct, was rediscovered in the 1990s in a single stream, Killbuck Creek. Propagation efforts continue while the stream’s water quality issues are addressed.
Michigan is home to another of the Midwest’s endangered species success stories. The Kirtland’s warbler, a life list species for birdwatchers, has made a comeback here, from an all-time low of 167 pairs in 1974 to more than 2,000 pairs today. The Endangered Species Act provided the means to focus resources on habitat management for the warbler, preventing extinction and propelling the bird toward recovery.
Aquatic life depends on clean water, and in Missouri, the Endangered Species Act is highlighting the importance of protecting water quality. Species like the cave-dwelling grotto sculpin illustrate the importance of keeping groundwater clean. The Ozark hellbender, one of the world’s largest salamanders, depends on high-quality waterways to survive.
See images of Midwest endangered and threatened species and find out more about the efforts to conserve them at: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/esa40.html