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Conservation partnerships help keep two birds, salamander and skink from requiring endangered species act protections

Following rigorous scientific reviews, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that, thanks in part to ongoing conservation partnerships, four southeastern animals do not face the threat of extinction now or in the foreseeable future. Accordingly, the MacGillivray’s seaside sparrow, Florida sandhill crane, striped newt and Cedar Key mole skink do not warrant Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection.

“Our efforts working closely with diverse partners to proactively understand and address threats to wildlife is succeeding,” said Leo Miranda, the Service’s Southeast regional director. “These decisions are examples of sound science and strong conservation partnerships. We are seeing momentum for solution-oriented conservation continue to grow.”

To make these decisions, the Service brought together a team of biologists for each species, which compiled and examined all known data and research on each animal. The findings for all four are that populations are stable or improving, threats have been addressed or greatly reduced, and adequate protections are in place for each. These peer-reviewed findings are outlined in Species Status Assessments (SSA) completed for each species.

MacGillivray’s seaside sparrow

A brownish yellow bird in hand.
MacGillivray’s seaside sparrow, Kiawah Island, South Carolina, December 2016. Photo by Adam Smith, USFWS.

The MacGillivray’s seaside sparrow is one of seven remaining seaside sparrow subspecies, known from the coastal marshes of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. The Service’s SSA determined that the South Carolina population is likely stable and more resilient than the Georgia-Florida population, due to higher nest survival rates and birds that inhabit higher elevation marshes. Although not as resilient as the South Carolina population, the Georgia-Florida population was found to be more abundant.

Florida sandhill crane

The Florida sandhill crane population contains approximately 5,000 individuals found from the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia to the Everglades in Florida. The Service found that the most critical factor impacting Florida sandhill crane populations is habitat availability. The crane’s demonstrated ability to adapt to agricultural and suburban habitats (e.g., croplands, pastures, golf courses and recreational areas) for breeding, nesting and feeding activities are helping ensure the population’s resiliency. Download the species status assessment.

A large gray bird with red face sitting on a muddy nest in a wetland with a small, beige chick.
Florida sandhill crane and chick. Photo by Lawrence Crovo, CC BY-ND 2.0.

Cedar Key mole skink

The Cedar Key mole skink is a shiny brown lizard that can grow up to six inches long, two-thirds of which is tail. It is known to occur only on eight islands of the Cedar Keys along a 10-mile section of Levy County on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Primary threats to the skink include effects of sea-level rise and shifts in rainfall, temperature and storm intensities. However, the continued occurrence of the Cedar Key mole skink on two of the historically surveyed islands as well as recent observations on five additional islands indicates a level of resiliency to these threats. Download the species status assessment.

A blueish/brown lizard with a bright red tail on sand
Cedar Key mole skink. Photo by jakescott on iNaturalist, CC BY-NC 2.0.

Striped newt

The striped newt is a small salamander that uses temporary wetlands and uplands, such as scrub, flatwoods and sandhills, as habitats. The current range of the striped newt extends from southern Georgia to north-central Florida. The SSA revealed new information that the threats were of a lower intensity than were identified earlier. The discovery of new striped newt populations also contributes to increased resiliency, redundancy and representation for the species. Benefitting the newt are also efforts such as captive rearing and release of newts in the Apalachicola National Forest, enrollment of additional conservation lands with striped newt populations, and data reflecting that 85 percent of populations currently occur on conserved lands. Download the species status assessment.

An orange and brown salamander with bright orange stripes down its back standing on a rock
Striped newt. Photo by Kevin Enge, FWC.

These decisions bring the total number of “wildlife wins” in the Service’s Southeast and Northeast Regions to 192, a result of joint at-risk conservation and recovery efforts. Since 2011, the Service’s biologists, working with state partners, have determined that these species did not need federal protection as a result of this proactive conservation with our partners and improved science and understanding of threats to imperiled species. This effort has drawn praise for its use of incentives and flexibilities within the ESA to protect imperiled wildlife, reduce regulations and keep working lands working. It is led by the Service, 26 states that make up the Northeast and Southeastern associations of state fish and wildlife agencies, and a host of conservation groups, businesses and utilities.

As part of this effort, 16 wildlife species protected under the ESA were downlisted or delisted as a result of recovery actions and intensive collaboration with diverse partners.

Contacts

Jennifer Koches, MacGillivray’s seaside sparrow
jennifer_koches@fws.gov, (843) 727-4707, ext. 214

Nadine Siak, Florida sandhill crane
Nadine_siak@fws.gov, (404) 679-7290

Chuck Underwood, Cedar Key mole skink and striped newt chuck_underwood@fws.gov, (904) 731-3332

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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