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Lagniappe crayfish. Photo by Chris Lukhaup, U.S. Forest Service.

Partnerships keep critters off Endangered Species List

The state of Alabama is No. 3 in the nation in total number of threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The staff of the Alabama field office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) works to conserve these species.

In 2014, the field office’s workload got even bigger. Due to litigation and petitions from the Center for Biological Diversity under the ESA, the Service’s Southeast Region was ordered to evaluate more than 400 species and determine whether or not they need federal protection. More than 100 of those species live in Alabama. So in addition to managing the state’s imperiled species, the Alabama Field Office must decide if these additional plants and animals need listing under the ESA.

With the backlog of species growing, staff is now looking for voluntary and innovative ways to protect imperiled wildlife that doesn’t require federal listing. Working to conserve species through private and public partnerships is one pathway to conservation that can help a species recover so that federal protection isn’t needed.

In 2014, the focus on partnerships paid off. A collaborative effort with the state of Alabama, federal agencies, and scientific experts led to the determination that five species of crayfish would not need protection under the ESA. They are: blackbarred crayfish, burrowing bog crayfish, Chattooga River crayfish, lagniappe crayfish, and least crayfish.

A dark colored crayfish standing on rocks.
Blackbarred crayfish. Photo by Guenter Schuster, Eastern Kentucky University (retired).

The new information came from several sources, including the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Geological Survey of Alabama, and the U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Research Station. In addition, surveys were conducted by three regional crayfish experts. The result of those surveys suggests that the crayfish populations are healthy, and don’t need to be listed. That’s not just good news for the species. It’s also good news for taxpayers.

A crayfish with bright blue and red markings along its claws and tail
Chattooga River crayfish. Photo by Guenter Schuster, Eastern Kentucky University (retired).

The average cost to list a single species can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. By comparison, the cost incurred to conduct crayfish surveys totaled about $62,000, resulting in savings of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

In 2015, the Service received more good news. The Center for Biological Diversity removed six more species from the list, including the Warrior darter, cobble elimia, compact elimia, caper elimia, ample elimia and mud elimia.

In 2016, the Alabama Field Office hopes to further strengthen our partnerships to protect our state’s wildlife. there is a seat at the table for anyone who has a stake in Alabama’s natural resources.

For more information about how the Service and other federal agencies and states are working to proactively conserve more than 400 at-risk species, with the goal of keeping them off the endangered and threatened species lists, please visit fws.gov/southeast/endangered-species-act/at-risk-species.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit fws.gov. Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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