Overview of the Endangered Species Program in New Jersey
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Purpose of the Endangered Species Act
The Endangered Species Act provides protection for federally listed species and conserves the ecosystems upon which listed species depend. As stated in the Endangered Species Act, endangered and threatened animals and plants are of "aesthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people."
The NJFO is committed to working with the public to protect and conserve federal trust resources, including federally listed species. The removal or extinction of one species affects all species, including people. There are approximately 1,046 endangered species and 305 threatened species listed under the Endangered Species Act in the United States (updated daily on the Service's web page). Endangered means that a species is in immediate danger of becoming extinct throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Threatened means that a species is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. Threats to all native species include:
For more information regarding listed species, visit the Service's Threatened and Endangered Species System (TESS) website.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Role
Protecting and restoring listed species to a secure status in the wild is the primary objective of the Service's Endangered Species Program. The Service is responsible for 13 federally listed species and three candidate species in New Jersey.
The NJFO works to build and maintain partnerships, promote good science, and adopt an ecosystem approach to conserving wildlife and natural resources. Federally listed species usually receive additional protection under New Jersey State regulations, so effective coordination with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is particularly important.
Listing of a Species
Service biologists monitor information regarding species that are in decline. Species become "candidates" for addition to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants (list) when the best available scientific data demonstrate that a species warrants inclusion on the list. Species are listed according to a ranking priority with the species most in need of Endangered Species Act protection being listed first. To list a species, a notice is published in the Federal Register announcing the proposal to list the species and requesting comments from the public and local, state, and federal agencies. All comments regarding the proposed listing are reviewed. A final rule placing the species on the list as threatened or endangered is published unless additional scientific information demonstrates that listing is not warranted.
Recovery of a Species
Once a species is listed, a recovery plan is prepared to identify actions that must be taken to stabilize the species' population and to recover the population to levels where protection under the Endangered Species Act is no longer necessary. Successful recovery depends on the effective coordination and involvement of many groups and individuals working together. Such partnerships include federal, state, and local governments, universities, conservation and other groups, private industry, private landowners, and the public. The status of the species is reviewed periodically and revisions to the recovery plan are made to incorporate new information regarding the species. Endangered species will be "down listed" to threatened once the specified recovery goals have been achieved. When a species recovers to the point where the protection of the Endangered Species Act is no longer necessary, the species will be removed from the list and monitored for a period to ensure its recovery.
Species Protection Under the Endangered Species Act
The Endangered Species Act protects listed animal species by making the "take" of a listed species illegal. The Endangered Species Act defines take to include: harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect, or attempt to engage in any of those activities. Additionally, harm has been defined to include modifying habitat enough to kill or injure a listed species. Harass means an intentional or negligent act or omission that creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns, which include but are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering. With respect to listed plants, it is unlawful to remove, damage, or destroy a listed plant from an area under federal jurisdiction, or from any other area in knowing violation of a State law or regulation. Also see the Service's Endangered Species Glossary.
The Endangered Species Act also ensures that federal agencies do not undertake, fund, or authorize projects that would jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species. Federal agencies are required under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act to consult with the Service during the planning stages of proposed projects that may adversely affect listed species. This process is commonly called "Section 7 consultation." Activities that require a federal permit (e.g., filling wetlands) would also require Section 7 consultation if a listed species may be affected. Section 7 consultation has been highly effective in providing federal agencies with the information they need to proceed with federal actions without risking a species' survival. The majority of evaluated actions do not affect listed species or their designated critical habitat. From 1998-2001, the Service conducted over 219,000 Section 7 consultations nationwide. Of those, there were only 367 instances (less than 0.2 percent) when the Service determined that a project as proposed would jeopardize the survival and recovery of a listed species. In these cases, the Service works with the federal action agency to develop a reasonable and prudent alternative action that would accomplish the same purpose with reduced impacts to listed species. For more information regarding consultation with the NJFO please visit our Consultation in New Jersey webpage.
The Endangered Species Act in New Jersey
People generally prefer to live and work in areas that are rich in cultural, historical, and natural beauty. Maintaining a healthy environment and protecting declining species populations does not equate with stopping economic growth and causing large-scale job loss. Simply stated, the Endangered Species Act works in New Jersey through local actions to protect and restore one of the State's most precious resources: its native wildlife and plants. All species in nature, including people, are inter-connected: the health of native species mirrors the health of the world around us. Endangered species biologists in the NJFO work with other State and federal agencies, private land developers, non-government organizations, and the public to protect and restore federally listed species and their habitats. They also help ensure that development projects undertaken in New Jersey minimize adverse impacts to listed species and maintain a healthy environment. For example, from 1987 through 2004, the NJFO conducted over 11,000 reviews and provided technical assistance for over 2,000 projects in coordination with the State, helping to make the projects more environmentally sound. See also: Consultation in New Jersey and Frequently Asked Questions About Endangered Species in New Jersey.
Why Care About Endangered Species and Habitat Conservation?
The extinction of plants and animals is a part of the natural order of life. In the past, mass extinction events, lasting over thousands of years, were associated with major natural physical events (such as glaciation). Generally, these mass extinctions did not affect all groups of organisms. Most of today's extinctions are being caused by human activity within a relatively short time period (only hundreds of years or less); the rate of extinction is from 10 to 1,000 times the estimated natural background rate; and, extinction is affecting all groups of organisms simultaneously.
Why should the American public care about protecting the earth's animal and plant diversity? Simply stated, maintenance of species diversity within an ecosystem is crucial to the quality of the human environment. The health of the ecosystems that surround us reflects our own health. The functioning of the earth's ecosystems is dependent on the life-sustaining matrix of plants, animals, and microorganisms that have diversified to cover every corner of the world. The diversity of life on earth sustains the complex interactions of all of the ecosystems on earth; generating the air we breathe, cleaning the water we drink, and recycling nutrients in the soil. We do not fully understand these complex interactions; therefore, we cannot be sure which or how many plant and animal extinctions might affect our own well-being or survival. Although not always readily apparent, the extinction of native species is often the reflection of an unbalanced or stressed ecosystem. Severely unbalanced or stressed ecosystems lack the resiliency to support and sustain living organisms. Additionally, each living organism contains a unique reservoir of genetic material that has evolved over eons of time. This genetic material cannot be retrieved or duplicated if lost and may hold unknown benefits for humankind in medicine, agriculture, and industry. A healthy environment provides for a healthy human population, which in turn sustains a healthy economy. For example, it was reported in 2003 that tourism to the New Jersey shore contributed to more than half of the $31 billion expended by tourism in New Jersey. Beach closures due to pollution can have a significant impact on the State and local economy. See also "Why is it important to conserve endangered species?."
The Endangered Species Act & What We Do
The Service's The Endangered Species Act & What We Do website provides additional information about the Endangered Species Act, the text of the Endangered Species Act, and information concerning the role of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
National Database AccessThe Service's Environmental Conservation Online System (ECOS) is a select set of national U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service databases and applications. ECOS provides a central access point for data integration, queries, reports, summaries, data editing, spatial analysis, map generation, and data export.