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For Immediate Release, May 17, 2012

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681

Study: 90 Percent of Endangered Species Recovering on Time

Southeast's Red Wolves, Sandhill Cranes, Gray Bats Among Species Improving
Because of Endangered Species Act

WASHINGTON— A new Center for Biological Diversity analysis of 110 endangered species finds that 90 percent, including many in the Southeast, are on track to meet recovery goals set by federal scientists. The review examined population trends of plants and animals protected by the Endangered Species Act in all 50 states, including the Southeast’s red wolves, sandhill cranes, gray bats and Tennessee coneflowers. Again and again, the analysis finds species on a positive trajectory toward recovery — and in some cases, exceeding expectations.

“There are Endangered Species Act success stories in every state in America, and the Southeast’s no exception,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center. “No other law in the world has done so much to rescue species from the brink of extinction and put them on a path to recovery. Simply put, the Act has been remarkably successful.”

The study analyzed population data for 110 species from the year each was placed on the endangered species list through 2011. Each species’ actual population trend and trajectory was compared to the timeline for recovery set out in government recovery plans. Nearly all the animals and plants are recovering on time to meet federal goals.

The study’s findings are similar to a 2006 Center analysis of all federally protected species in the Northeast, which found 93 percent were stabilized or improving since being put on the endangered species list and 82 percent were on pace to meet recovery goals.

“Some of the Southeast’s signature species, from red wolves to gray bats, are on their way to recovery thanks to the Endangered Species Act,” Suckling said.

Today’s report, which relies on data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and independent scientists, is a science-based rebuttal to attacks on the Act by critics like Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, who claims the Act is “failing badly” because only 1 percent of species have been recovered. In fact, the report finds that 80 percent of species haven’t been listed for long enough to reach their projected delisting date. On average, species have been protected for 32 years and have a typical expected recovery period of 46 years.

“Saving species from the brink of extinction — and bringing them back to a point where they’re going to survive into the future — can’t happen overnight,” Suckling said. “Calling the Act at failure at this point is like throwing away a 10-day prescription of antibiotics on the third day and saying they don’t work. It just makes no sense.”

For full recovery profiles of the 110 species — and an interactive regional map — go to

Southeast Highlights

Red wolf. Once found throughout forested regions from southern New England to the Gulf Coast, by 1920 the red wolf was considered extirpated from the southern Atlantic states due to aggressive predator-control programs and the loss of forest habitat. In 1967 it was listed as endangered and by 1970 the population had declined to fewer than 100 wolves confined to a small area of coastal Texas and Louisiana. In 1980, the last remaining wild red wolves were brought into captivity, and the species was declared extinct in the wild. A captive-breeding program has allowed red wolves to be reintroduced into areas in North Carolina and South Carolina and on three islands off the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. In 2011 the total population, including wild and captive wolves, was estimated at 300.
Gray bat. Unlike many other bat species, the gray bat typically lives in caves year-round. Although found in as many as 15 states, about 95 percent of hibernating gray bats are found in just eight caves: two in Tennessee, three in Missouri and one each in Kentucky, Alabama and Arkansas. The gray bat population had dropped to approximately 2.2 million in 1970, and even after the species was placed on the endangered species list in 1976 it continued to decline, reaching a low of 1.5 million in 1992. After the population rebounded and pushed toward 2.5 million, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its intent to downlist the bat to “threatened” in 2002. But due to the threat of white-nose syndrome, the fungal disease that has evolved into the worst wildlife epidemic in U.S. history, the Service determined in 2009 that the bat should keep its endangered listing. A year later, white-nose syndrome was discovered in a gray bat cave in Tennessee, raising fears for the survival of the species.
Virginia round leaf birch. This moderate-sized tree with aromatic bark and a compact crown was thought extinct until the rediscovery of 41 trees along the banks of Cressy Creek in 1975. Completely surrounded by farmland, by 1977 the population had declined to 26 trees, prompting the creation of the “Betula Uber Protection, Management and Research Coordinating Committee.” Through their efforts in 1978 the birch became the first tree species to gain protection under the Endangered Species Act. Seeds of the birch were gathered and germinated in greenhouses, and starting in 1984 the seedlings were transplanted to 20 clearings in wooded areas of the Cressy Creek watershed. Five populations of 96 trees were established annually over a four-year period. As of 1994, 19 of the 20 introduced populations were thought to be self-sufficient and totaled 1,400 trees, leading to the downlisting of the birch.
Mississippi sandhill crane. Known for their trumpeting call and 6-foot wingspan that allows them to soar for hours, these birds once were found in coastal wetlands from Georgia to Texas and were so plentiful in southern Louisiana in the late 1880s they were considered a farm pest. By the 1910s they had been extirpated from Louisiana; by 1929 the total U.S. crane population was about 75 birds. When the species was placed on the endangered list in 1973, about 40 birds remained. In 1975 the 19,306-acre Mississippi Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge was established. Captive-raised birds were released into the wild flock beginning in 1981, and the wild population increased steadily from 33 birds in 1989 to 135 birds in 1993. In 2009 there were about 110 individuals, including about 20 to 25 breeding pairs.
Tennessee coneflower. This large, showy, purple perennial is found only in a 154-square-mile section of central Tennessee, near Nashville, on cedar glades — forest openings created when limestone approaches the surface and leaves only a thin layer of soil, incapable of supporting trees or large shrubs. Naturally rare, the coneflower population was further reduced by ongoing habitat reduction, and the flower was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1978. Endangered Species Act protection led to the establishment of new populations, expansion of existing populations, development of successful propagation techniques, and increased protection practices. By 2011 there were six populations and 35 colonies made up of an estimated 107,349 total flowering stems, leading to the plant’s removal from the endangered list.

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