Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

An Endangered Species Success Story: Secretary Norton Announces Delisting of Aleutian Canada Goose

March 19, 2001

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Highlighting a 35-year conservation effort involving state governments, conservation organizations, and private landowners, Interior Secretary Gale Norton today announced the Aleutian Canada goose has fully recovered from near extinction and will be removed from the list of threatened and endangered species.

A subspecies of the Canada goose, the Aleutian Canada goose is found only on a few of Alaska’s remote, windswept Aleutian Islands and in areas of California and Oregon. Aleutian Canada geese numbered only in the hundreds in the mid-1970s. Through unprecedented cooperation with state governments and in partnership with private landowners and organizations, biologists with the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were able to slowly bring the bird back. Today, the estimated population has grown to 37,000 and the threat of extinction has passed.

"The recovery of the Aleutian Canada goose sets an example for the future of endangered species recovery," said Secretary Norton. "By working with private landowners, acquiring land and implementing conservation actions, the Service has enabled the protection of thousands of acres of habitat crucial to the recovery of the Aleutian Canada goose, while maintaining the flexibility landowners need to manage their property."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked closely with private groups and landowners to recover the Aleutian Canada goose, which breeds in the Aleutian Islands and winters in California, stopping along the migration at points on the Oregon coast. In California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, and along the northern California coast, many private landowners manage their lands to provide wintering habitat for Aleutian Canada geese.

"The recovery of the Aleutian Canada goose once again proves that successful conservation of wildlife is a partnership between the people and their government," said Acting Service Director Marshall P. Jones, Jr. "Using the flexibility provided under the Endangered Species Act, we forged partnerships with states and private organizations and found innovative ways to protect the bird’s habitat. All Americans should be proud of what we have accomplished together."

The Aleutian Canada goose, identifiable by a distinctive white neck-band and its small size, nests on islands within the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Biologists trace the origin of the subspecies’ decline back as far as 1750 when fur-farmers and trappers began introducing non-native foxes on more than 190 islands within the goose’s nesting range in Alaska. The fox introductions hit their peak from 1915 to 1936, when fur demand was high. The foxes preyed heavily upon the birds, which had no natural defenses against land predators on the previously mammal-free islands. Scientists recorded no sightings of Aleutian Canada geese from 1938 until 1962, when Service biologists discovered a remnant population on rugged, remote Buldir in the western Aleutians. Scientists believe Buldir was fox-free because its rocky, stormy coast was difficult to approach.

This small subspecies of Canada goose was first listed as endangered in 1967 under Federal laws that predated the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The goose was one of the first species or subspecies to be protected under this Act. The first accurate count of the birds in 1975 revealed only 790 individuals. In the early 1980s, biologists found small numbers of breeding geese on two other islands.

Since 1967, biologists have worked to eliminate introduced foxes from former nesting islands and to reintroduce geese. The removal of these predators has benefitted many other bird species on the islands, including puffins, murres, and auklets. Besides removing foxes, the Service and state wildlife agencies closed Aleutian Canada goose hunting in wintering and migration areas, banded birds on the breeding grounds to identify important wintering and migrations areas, and released families of wild geese caught on Buldir on other fox-free islands in the Aleutians.

In California, the Service has worked extensively with local landowners in cooperative partnerships to protect and manage wintering habitat on private land through fee title acquisition, easements and voluntary programs. Important wintering and migration habitat in California and Oregon also has been acquired as national wildlife refuges.

As a direct result of these recovery activities, the population increased to 6,300 birds by 1990, enough to allow the Service to reclassify the subspecies from endangered to threatened. The recovery continued through the 1990s, with new populations firmly established on Agattu, Alaid and Nizki islands in the western Aleutians.

Although the overall population of Aleutian Canada geese is now nearly five times greater than the Service’s recovery goal, the additional objective of having 50 or more pairs of Aleutian Canada geese nesting in each of three geographic parts of its historic range (western Aleutians other than Buldir Island, central Aleutians, and the Semidi Islands) has yet to be fully met. The numbers of geese nesting in the central Aleutians and in the Semidi Islands are stable, but probably remain below the 50-pair objective. The Service’s decision to delist the subspecies is based primarily on the strength of the bird’s recovery in the western Aleutian Islands.

While the species continues to rebound in the western Aleutians, Russian scientists are conducting an ongoing program to reestablish Aleutian Canada geese in the Asian portion of the birds’ range. So far, Russian biologists have released 86 geese on Ekarma in the northern Kuril Islands. Japanese scientists have observed several of these birds on the wintering grounds in Japan.

Conservation and management of winter and migration habitat in California and Oregon remains a high priority for the Service and for the California and Oregon state governments. In addition to acquiring certain lands used by the geese, the Service and the State of California are working to reduce competition between geese and humans on other privately owned cropland and pastures.

The Service is required under ESA to monitor Aleutian Canada goose populations for at least five years. The Service will pay particularly close attention to the small number of geese that nest in the Semidi Islands and winter on the north coast of Oregon. While the goose will no longer be protected under the provisions of ESA, the subspecies is still protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Other U.S. and U.S. territorial species that have, to date, recovered enough to be removed from listing under the Endangered Species Act, and the dates of their delistings, are as follows: American alligator (1987), American peregrine falcon (1999), Arctic peregrine falcon (1994), brown pelican (Atlantic coast population, 1985), Palau ground dove (1985), Palau fantail flycatcher (1985), Palau owl (1985), and gray whale (1994). In addition, the eastern gray kangaroo (1995), western gray kangaroo (1995), and red kangaroo (1995) have been delisted.

The final rule is on file at the Federal Register and will be published March 20, 2001.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 530 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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