Conserving Endangered Species in the Southeast
One of the primary responsibilities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Congress defined “species” to include subspecies, varieties, and, for vertebrates, distinct population segments.
The Endangered Species Act, often referred to as the ESA or simply “the Act,” is America’s strongest conservation law. Originally passed by Congress in 1973, the ESA is jointly administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The Service has primary responsibility for terrestrial and freshwater organisms, while the responsibilities of NMFS are mainly marine wildlife such as whales and anadromous fish like salmon.
All species of plants and animals, except pest insects, are eligible for listing as endangered or threatened. Check out a list of all species protected under the Act in the United States.
“Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed. It is a many-faceted treasure, of value to scholars, scientists, and nature lovers alike, and it forms a vital part of the heritage we all share as Americans.” - President Nixon
Endangered vs. Threatened
“Endangered” means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
“Threatened” means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
The goal of the Service is to take plants and animals off the endangered and threatened species list when they have fully recovered, meaning their survival no longer depends on the the ESA protections.
A Distinct Population Segment (DPS) is described geographically instead of biologically, such as “all members of a species that occur north of 40 north latitude.”
The use of Distinct Population Segments is a benefit to species conservation and a benefit to people whose activities may be affected by the ESA’s prohibitions. Conservation efforts are more effective and less costly if they are started early and a Distinct Population Segment listing makes earlier listings possible. By listing a Distinct Population Segment, we apply the ESA’s protections only to the deteriorating portion of a species’ range. Threats can then be addressed in that specific (and smaller) area instead of waiting until the entire species has declined to the point that listing the entire species throughout its range is necessary.
Who We Work With to Conserve Species
Nearly 80% of the land in the southeastern United States is privately owned. We recognize that private citizens, businesses and other organizations have always played a tremendous role in the conservation of southeastern plants, fish and animals.
State Wildlife Agencies
Section 6 of the ESA, also known as Cooperation with States, recognizes the key role that states play in conserving native wildlife and plants. The Section 6 program provides funding to states and territories for species and habitat conservation actions on non-federal lands. Through cooperative agreements states can receive funding from the Service for a variety of conservation actions that contribute toward listed species recovery.
- Conservation Grants provide financial assistance to states and territories to implement conservation projects for listed and candidate species.
- Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants provide funds to states and territories to support the development of Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) through support of baseline surveys, document preparation, outreach, and similar planning activities.
- Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants provide financial assistance to states and territories to acquire land associated with approved HCPs.
- Recovery Land Acquisition Grants provide financial assistance to support states and territories to acquire habitat in support of draft and approved recovery plans.
Non-Profit and Non-Governmental Organizations
The Service partners with many non-profit and non-governmental organizations to conserve species across the globe. Typically the Service will enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a partner organization outlining shared interest and the expectations for each organization. For example, the Service entered into a MOU with Bat Conservation International to conserve Federally listed or proposed for listing as endangered or threatened species. The two organizations will:
”… cooperate in activities necessary to maintain or increase the productivity of bats and their habitat on lands managed by the FWS, and on other lands as appropriate.”
Other Federal Agencies
Section 7 of the ESA calls upon the entire U.S. federal government to participate in the conservation of species listed as threatened and endangered. Federal agencies working together, reduce costs to taxpayers and increase overall positive impacts for wildlife and habitats.
Federal agencies consult with the Service to make sure the projects they carry out do not jeopardize the continued existence of protected species. Agencies can make modifications to the way they carry out business in order to support the conservation of threatened and endangered species.