Bookmark and Share

More press releases

For Immediate Release, May 17, 2012

Contact:  Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681

Study: 90 Percent of Endangered Species Recovering on Time

Gulf Coast’s American Alligators, Brown Pelicans, Bayou Darters 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 along the Gulf Coast, 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 Gulf Coast’s American alligators, brown pelicans and bayou darters. 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 part of America, and the Gulf Coast’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 Gulf Coast’s signature species, from brown pelicans to American alligators, 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

Gulf Coast Highlights

Brown pelican, western Gulf population. With their population decimated in the early 1900s, first by the millinery trade and then by fisherman who feared them as competitors, these graceful fliers, known for their dive-bombing fishing tactics, were already in trouble when DDT virtually wiped them out along the Gulf Coast. By 1961 the birds were extirpated in Louisiana, where they are the state bird, and they were fast approaching the same status in Texas. Listed as endangered in 1970, the pelicans slowly reestablished themselves, with eight nests in Texas that same year and 11 in Louisiana the following year. Although nests numbers in Louisiana fluctuate greatly due to hurricanes, in 2007 there were 10,947 nests in the state. In Texas 6,136 nests were counted in 2008. In 2009 the pelicans were delisted due to population recovery. It remains unknown how lingering pollution from the BP oil spill will impact populations.
American alligator. The number of American alligators dropped through most of the 20th century due to poorly regulated hunting, commercial demand and habitat loss to development. In 1967 the nation’s second-largest reptiles, which grow to an average of 11 feet long, were listed as endangered throughout their range in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. Almost immediately, population numbers began to rise, and the species was delisted in three Louisiana parishes in 1975. By 1987 they had been delisted in the remaining portion of their range. By some estimates the population has now reached well over a million. The alligator remains protected under the Endangered Species Act due to its similarity of appearance to the endangered American crocodile.
Bayou darter. This member of the perch family occurs only in Bayou Pierre and the lower reaches of the tributaries of White Oak Creek, Foster Creek and Turkey Creek in Mississippi. It is a habitat specialist, requiring swift, shallow riffles or runs over coarse gravel and pebbles. Since 1975 the darter has been listed as threatened due to habitat degradation caused by erosion and siltation, gravel mining, clearing of riparian vegetation, road and bridge construction, and transmission-line construction and maintenance. Thanks to Endangered Species Act protection, the darters’ verified range has steadily increased over the past 30 years as the fish expand upstream into habitat where they had been eliminated.
Big Bend gambusia. Historically found only in the clear, spring-fed waters of what is today Big Bend National Park, this 2-inch-long fish was virtually extirpated in the 1950s by reduced spring flows and the introduction of nonnative western mosquitofish. During an unsuccessful 1956 effort to eradicate the mosquitofish, the Big Bend gambusia were relocated, with only three fish that had been moved to the University of Texas surviving. Nonnative fish and a rare cold snap foiled several attempts over the next 20 years to help the gambusia thrive in their native area. In 1967 they were listed as endangered. In the following years improvements were made to the artificial refugia at the national park, and the fish thrived, reaching approximately 50,000 fish in 2005. The park’s chief biologist credits the Endangered Species Act with prompting the successful, systematic efforts to conserve the species.

Go back