Audubon Society Names America's 10 Most Endangered Birds
WASHINGTON, DC, March 27, 2006 (ENS) - The ivory-billed woodpecker and the California condor top the list of America's 10 most endangered birds issued today by the National Audubon Society. The 100 year old conservation group says it is reporting on the survival of the nation's rarest bird species to show how heavily they depend upon the Endangered Species Act, which itself is now endangered.
The other birds on the most endangered list are the whooping crane, Gunnison sage-grouse, Kirtland's warbler, piping plover, Florida scrub-jay, ashy storm-petrel, golden-cheeked warbler, and Kittlitz's murrelet.
These 10 most endangered bird species face a range of threats such as development pressures, invasive species, and global warming, Audubon says.
In addition, the Audubon report reserves a special section for the 10 most endangered Hawaiian birds. Hawaii has more endangered species than any other state, and many of them are endemic forest birds. These birds face threats from rats, cats and mongoose that prey on eggs and fledglings; invasive bird species, avian diseases, and loss of habitat to development.
Audubon released the report as the Senate considers legislation that the group says would undermine the protections provided to endangered birds by the Endangered Species Act.
In September 2005, the House passed HR 3824, sponsored by Congressman Richard Pombo, a California Republican. This bill, called "The Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act," eliminates protection for critical habitat. It allows development projects to proceed regardless of impacts on endangered birds and wildlife, provides payments to landowners as compensation for complying with the law, and includes special exemptions for pesticide manufacturers.
Now moving through the Senate is the “Collaboration and Recovery of Endangered Species Act” (S 2110), sponsored by Senator Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican.
This bill would allow an application for listing a species under the Endangered Species Act to be unacted on for as long as three years. It would allow developers to destroy critical habitat of a listed species in return for preserving habitat for another species, create a recovery planning process that would allow industry to rewrite and overrule the decisions of wildlife experts, and require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide a “provisional permit” for any project on private property, except for “ground clearing,” unless a recovery plan is already in place.
Senator Crapo believes that new incentives for private landowners must be put into the law to protect additional habitat for species’ recovery.
In February, the Idaho Legislature passed a measure approving the Crapo approach to changing the Endangered Species Act. The senator said, “We need the input of states and landowners in species recovery and this bill encourages that input. More and more people are agreeing we need to put our efforts into on-the-ground collaborative work and not into arguments and lawsuits. The result will be better for people and better for species.”
If the Senate passes the Crapo bill, a conference committee would be appointed to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the legislation. Audubon says both versions "represent significant steps back for the protection of America’s most vulnerable birds and wildlife."
Since its enactment 33 years ago, Audubon says the Endangered Species Act has been "profoundly successful in protecting species, including our national symbol, the bald eagle."
A report published March 16 by the American Bird Conservancy provides more evidence for conservationist support of the Endangered Species Act by demonstrating that the Endangered Species Act is saving America’s rarest birds. Of 43 birds listed under the Act that breed in the continental United States, 44 percent have increased since listing, and a further 19 percent are stable, or have been stabilized by conservation measures.
"Perhaps the Endangered Species Act can be improved, but it is important to remember that it is already working as it should to save species from extinction and recover their populations - an extremely difficult task even with sufficient financial support," said George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy.
"The Act has been a major success, and is limited primarily by lack of funding," Fenwick said. "The American people strongly support endangered species conservation, and do not want to see the Act weakened to benefit minority interest groups," he said.
"Today it isn't hard to see a bald eagle in most states," Fenwick pointed out. "If not for the Endangered Species Act, you'd need to fly to Alaska to see one."
In addition to the Endangered Species Act successes documented by the new Audubon report, the American Bird Conservancy says other success stories include the brown pelican, peregrine falcon, Aleutian Canada goose, and the San Clemente loggerhead shrike.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the species listed as endangered or threatened. In addition, 68 percent of listed species are stable or improving. The longer a species is listed under the act, the more likely it is to be improving, Audubon says.
The Audubon's 10 Most Endangered Birds of 2006
In November 2005, the California Department of Fish and Game, Habitat Conservation and Planning Branch estimated that the population had reached about 270 individuals, including 145 in captivity. The survival of the California Condor is almost entirely attributable to its listing as an endangered species, Audubon says in its report.
Captive breeding after the crane was included on the endangered Species list in 1967, has rebuilt the population to about 340 Whooping cranes in the wild and 135 in captivity.
In 1989, the total Kirtland’s Warbler population in Michigan was believed to be around 200. Since then, intensive programs to promote suitable habitat and trap cowbirds have worked. In 2005, a state survey of male Kirtland’s Warblers counted 1,415 singing males. If all have mates, the total population is around 2,800.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists the entire species of Piping Plover as either endangered or threatened. With about 6,100 birds, the population has increased after years of intensive management. Federal and state programs include predator fences, restrictions on motorized vehicles in the vicinity of flightless chicks, and stewards to control and monitor nesting sites on public and some private land.
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