| FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 21, 2006
Fish and Wildlife Service Declares Snowy Plover an
San Francisco, Calif. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the critically imperiled Pacific Coast population of the western snowy plover, a diminutive shorebird native to Washington, Oregon and California, has increased its population size by over 50 percent in less than 15 years and will likely recover if Endangered Species Act protections remain in place.
The snowy plover is one of hundreds of imperiled species that have benefited from the protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act, our nation’s safety net for fish, wildlife and plants on the brink of extinction. While the dramatic improvements of charismatic species such as the bald eagle, gray wolf and grizzly bear are now well known to scientists and the general public, many species endemic to California, including the southern sea otter, California least tern, Inyo California towhee and California condor, have also seen dramatic population growth thanks to the Endangered Species Act.
Earlier this year, the first report ever to assess the success of the Endangered Species Act based on empirical population trend data found that the Act has a 100 percent success rate at preventing extinction, and a 93 percent success rate in increasing population sizes and distribution in the northeastern United States alone. The report and a summary slideshow can be seen at www.esasuccess.org.
“The Endangered Species Act has been remarkably successful,” said Kieran Suckling, Policy Director for the Center for Biological Diversity and author of the report. “Humpback whales, bald eagles, brown pelicans, green and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, piping plovers, roseate terns, red-bellied turtles, and dwarf cinquefoils are just a few of the species that are recovering quite nicely.”
Today’s finding explains that the protections of the Endangered Species Act were essential to the population growth of the snowy plover. While snowy plovers still face immense threats from habitat destruction, disturbance from roaming off-leash dogs and other impacts, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that “the magnitude of the threats has been reduced through active management afforded by protections under the [Endangered Species Act], with a resultant increase to the overall Pacific Coast [western snowy plover] population. . . .We believe significant progress has been made toward recovery in a relatively short period of time (approximately 10 years), and that continued implementation of recovery actions that reduce the remaining threats could justify a delisting of the Pacific Coast [western snowy plover] in the near future.”
One of the most important ways to ensure that endangered species recover is to protect the special habitats in which they live. The Endangered Species Act accomplishes this by designating and providing special protection to “critical habitat” for a species. Critical habitat protection works: scientists have shown that species with critical habitats protected are twice as likely to be recovering as those without critical habitat protected.
The western snowy plover’s population increases are closely tied to its critical habitat protections. Protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1993, the shorebird’s first measurable steps toward recovery occurred in the late 1990s. The shorebird’s critical habitats were first protected in 1999.
Unfortunately, the Bush Administration slashed the snowy plover’s critical habitat nearly in half late last year, gutting protection for thousands of acres of habitat that are “essential to the survival of the species.”
“The snowy plover’s recovery is linked to the continued health of our coast, and we owe it to future generations to make sure that this wonderful creature survives,” said Brent Plater, Bay Area Director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “One of the most effective ways to do that is to protect the special places the snowy plover calls home.”
The population growth estimates are based on USFWS statements in the final rule protecting the snowy plover published in 1993 and this year’s finding that the snowy plover still deserves Endangered Species Act protection. These statements are presumed to have correction factors applied to them for uniformity. If correction factors have not been uniformly applied to the data, the increase in population is between 15-25%.