Washington, D.C. – Forty years ago this month, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act—our nation’s safety net for fish, plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction. Today the Endangered Species Coalition marks the anniversary with a new report highlighting a few of the great wildlife conservation accomplishments since the Act’s passage in 1973, including the brown pelican, American alligator and several other species that call the Gulf of Mexico home. The report is entitled, Back from the Brink: Ten Success Stories Celebrating the Endangered Species Act at 40.
The report highlights ten species that – thanks to the Endangered Species Act’s protections – are either steadily improving or have been recovered and removed from the list of imperiled species. Six of these species spend all or part of their lives in the Gulf region – the brown pelican, American alligator, American peregrine falcon, bald eagle, humpback whale, and green sea turtles. Other success stories include the nēnē goose, El Segundo blue butterfly, Robbins’ cinquefoil, and southern sea otter. All of the species in the report were nominated by Coalition member groups from around the country. A panel of distinguished scientists then reviewed the nominations and decided which species to include in the report.
Gulf Restoration Network nominated the brown pelican, which was once completely extinct in Louisiana.
“The brown pelican may be the state bird of Louisiana and 'Pelicans' one of the newest NBA team names, but it hasn't been that long since this iconic Gulf species was driven to the brink extinction due to hunting, the toxic insecticide DDT, and other factors,” said Raleigh Hoke, Communications Director with Gulf Restoration Network. “Thanks in large part to protections under the Endangered Species Act, brown pelicans have made an amazing recovery, and now any resident or visitor to the Gulf can enjoy the sight of a brown pelican skimming along the shoreline or diving into the water for a tasty fish.”
In 2009, the brown pelican was delisted as an endangered species. However, the BP drilling disaster had a significant impact on many brown pelican populations and their habitat. In the wake of the disaster, wildlife officials are working to monitor the long-term impacts of BP’s oil, and craft recovery plans for impacted populations.
“The BP disaster was a stark reminder of the continuing threats to brown pelicans, and the enduring need for the protections that the Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws can provide to pelicans and other Gulf wildlife,” stated Mr. Hoke.
More than 1,300 imperiled species of plants, fish and wildlife in the United States have been protected by the Endangered Species Act, and only ten have gone extinct, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Additionally, a recent study found that 90 percent of protected species are recovering at the pace expected in their scientific recovery plans. Biologists have indicated that the task of recovering a species from near-extinction is a decades-long endeavor.
“Thanks to wisdom and the vision of Congress in 1973, our children will have the opportunity to witness the magnificent breaching of a humpback whale, or hear the call of the peregrine falcon,” said Huta. “We owe it to future generations to continue to protect our endangered species and the special habitats they call home.”
When President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law on December 28, 1973, he announced, “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.”
The Endangered Species Coalition has also produced a slide show to accompany the report, featuring stunning photos of each of the ten species in the report. The Coalition produces a “Top 10” report annually. Previous years’ reports are also available on the Coalition’s website, www.endangered.org.
Gulf Restoration Network (HealthyGulf.org) is a 19 year old non-profit dedicated to empowering people to protect and restore the health of the Gulf of Mexico.