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For Immediate Release, May 17, 2012

Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Study: 90 Percent of Endangered Species Recovering on Time

Northwest’s Gray Wolves, Columbian White-tailed Deer, Bald Eagles 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 Northwest, 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 Northwest’s Columbian white-tailed deer, gray wolves, Oregon chub and Aleutian Canada geese. 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 Northwest is 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 Pacific Northwest’s signature species, from bald eagles to Columbian white-tailed deer, 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

Northwest Highlights

Columbian white-tailed deer. Known to reach weights of up to 300 pounds, these impressive animals numbered in the tens of thousands through the 19th century and were abundant in the Willamette, Columbia and Umpqua river valleys. But by 1940 unrestricted hunting and agricultural development had left only two populations: one of 200 to 300 in Douglas County, Ore., and another of 500 to 700 along the lower Columbia River in Oregon and Washington. By 1968 both populations had been listed as endangered. Following the implementation of a federal recovery plan in 1983, the Douglas County population grew to more than 6,000 in 2003 and was delisted. During its 35-year recovery period, its range expanded from just over 30 square miles to 309.
Aleutian Canada goose. Once nearly driven extinct by foxes introduced to their nesting islands in Alaska and by habitat destruction and hunting in California and Oregon, Aleutian Canada geese are today a clear success story. After a small population was found on a remote Alaskan island in the Aleutian chain, the goose was listed as an endangered species in 1967. Nonnative fox populations were controlled, nesting habitat was protected with the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge’s creation in 1980, and wintering and migration habitat was protected in California and Oregon. The Aleutian Canada goose population grew from 790 birds in 1975 to more than 60,000 in 2005. It was downlisted to “threatened” in 1990, declared recovered and removed from the endangered list in 2001, seven years earlier than projected by its recovery plan.
Gray wolf. Between the late 19th century and 1967, when wolves were listed as endangered, bounty hunting wiped out most of the wolf population in the lower 48 states, leaving populations in only northeastern Minnesota and Isle Royal, Mich. Successful recolonization of the Rocky Mountain region began in the early 1980s, and wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and Idaho in the mid-1990s. In 2009 the total population of wolves in the northern Rockies was about 1,679, up from 1,545 in 2007 and 1,300 in 2006. The population then began expanding beyond the Rockies; wolves started returning to Oregon in 1999, and the first pack, the Imnaha, was established in 2008. There are now four confirmed packs in eastern Oregon and at least 29 wolves. The first reliable reports of wolves returning to Washington came in 2005; today the state has five packs in the central and eastern portions of the state, including three breeding pairs and at least 27 individuals. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted the northern Rockies gray wolf in 2008, but the decision was overturned after conservationists successfully argued that the recovery plan goal was outdated and insufficient to remove the threat of extinction. In 2011, for the first time in the history of the Endangered Species Act, Congress overruled the courts and ordered the delisting of northern Rockies gray wolves, along with those in parts of Oregon, Washington and Utah. Wolf populations in Idaho and Montana are now subject to aggressive hunting and trapping seasons designed to severely reduce populations.  Wolves in Oregon and Washington remain protected under each state's Endangered Species Act.
Bald eagle. Our national bird began its decline in the 19th century at the hands of trophy hunters, feather collectors and outright wanton killing. It had already been extirpated or reduced to low numbers in most states by the 1940s, when DDT and other organochlorides came into wide use and almost drove it to extinction. In 1967 bald eagles were listed as endangered in the lower 48 states. In 1970 the eagles were joined on the list by American peregrine falcons, Arctic peregrine falcons and brown pelicans. The listing of these large, charismatic birds rallied the nation to ban the production and sale of DDT in 1972. Because of this ban, increased habitat protection and aggressive captive-breeding and translocation programs, bald eagle pairs in the lower 48 soared from 416 in 1963 to 11,052 in 2007, when the species was removed from federal protection. In 1984, 13 states lacked nesting eagles. By 1998, three years after it was downlisted from endangered to threatened, the bird was absent from only two. By 2006, it nested in all 48 states.  The Northwest saw some of the most dramatic growth in bald eagle numbers, with nesting pairs increasing from only 123 in the early 1970s to more than 1,300 by 2007 — 835 in Washington and 500 in Oregon.
Oregon chub. These small minnows found only in the Willamette River basin in western Oregon prefer silty habitats off main river channels such as beaver ponds, oxbows, stable backwater sloughs and flooded marshes with little or no water flow. Destructive agricultural practices, construction of dams, channelization of the river and its tributaries and the introduction of nonnative fish caused Oregon chub numbers to plummet. In 1993 they were listed as endangered. Conservation efforts focused on establishing new populations in habitats free of predatory nonnative fish. Between 1993 and 2008, the number of known populations increased from eight to 38, with 15 populations supporting at least 500 fish and considered stable or increasing for five years. As a result, the fish were reclassified from endangered to threatened in 2010.

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