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A species addition to the federal Endangered Species Listing is a questionable honor. Endangered status falls to any species under “danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range”. Within the Endangered Species Act, a 1973 law that hoped to address ever-worsening environmental and ecological concerns, are other ‘in-danger’ levels such as ‘Threatened‘ (species that are likely to become endangered); ‘Candidate‘ for future listing as endangered; ‘Endangered or Threatened due to similarity of appearance‘ (species that could be hard to identify between others); and, most interesting, confusing and disturbing of all, ‘Experimental‘ or ‘Non-essential population‘ – species or individuals that have been determined to be unimportant, unnecessary, or otherwise ‘disposable’ within an environment. (All species have a purpose, or else they wouldn’t exist, so who makes the decision any species is disposable?).

Periodically, usually every six to nine months, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFS) and, or National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) – the federal agencies with the task and responsibility to identify and protect species in danger – publishes a list of what they believe are the ‘newest’ threatened plants and animals. While being new is usually a good thing, what this list really signifies that, every year, within just a few months, more and more species are at risk of going away, forever. But identification on a list isn’t enough for a species to be added to the ‘official’ Endangered column; every listing must be reviewed by scientists, researchers, government officials, and those that could be impacted by the studies until only a portion of those on the initial list are given a ‘positive finding’ (which in this case really isn’t a positive), and are cleared as actual species in danger. Which leads to protection and….no, these species then move onto a 12-month review of further research, studies, comments, hearings and petitions to prove that the listings are actually warranted. Following this, another year of ‘finalization’ is processed (during which, the existence of a species, itself, could become ‘final’), resulting – if all findings are in line and all paperwork filed and no one steps forward to say protecting this species will prevent my rights to drive a four-wheeler any place I want in the wilderness – the species that make it this far are finally listed as Threatened or Endangered. Unless, of course, the permitted 6-month extension of comments and research is granted.

Obviously all this seems like a long, excessive, and unnecessary process towards preventing the extinction of any species that is in distress and may only consist of a few individuals living, literally, on the edge. While there are no examples of species becoming extinct (that we know of!) while undergoing this lengthy and complex listing and review process, with many scientists believing the immediate future holds one in six of every species under the danger of extinction it’s probably only a matter of time before the paperwork and regulations can’t keep up with the levels of species lost. Yet the process, to date, seems to work – as well as could be expected – and earlier this summer the USFWS released its most recent list of species in danger. Of 31 species, 21 passed through the initial 90 day review (not including the Grey Wolf which was proposed and championed by many groups to be revised from ‘Threatened’ to the more critical ‘Endangered’). The 21 that ‘made the cut’ – not unlike being selected for a playground sports team, but with much more serous results, are:

  • Alligator snapping turtle

  • Apalachicola kingsnake

  • Arizona toad

  • Blanding’s turtle

  • Cascade Caverns salamander

  • Cascades frog

  • Cedar Key mole skink

  • Foothill yellow-legged frog

  • Gopher frog

  • Green salamander

  • Illinois chorus frog

  • Kern County slender salamander

  • Key ringneck snake

  • Oregon slender salamander

  • Relictual slender salamander

  • Rim Rock crowned snake

  • Rio Grande cooter

  • Silvery phacelia

  • Southern hog-nosed snake

  • Spotted turtle

  • Western spadefoot toad

    In protest against being overlooked as a species in danger, these Wild Horses tried to organize a beach take-over but realized, too late, most people were not surprised to see large, brown, unclothed animals at the seashore.

    In protest against being overlooked as a species in danger, these Wild Horses tried to organize a beach take-over but realized, too late, most people were not surprised to see large, brown, unclothed animals at the seashore.

Those that were removed from the list (We are unworthy! At least as far as the process is concerned) are:

  • Blue Ridge gray-cheeked salamander

  • Caddo Mountain salamander

  • California giant salamander

  • Colorado checkered whiptail

  • Distinct population segment of North American wild horse

  • Gray wolf, excluding Mexican wolf, in the conterminous U.S.

  • Olympic torrent salamander

  • Pigeon Mountain salamander

  • Weller’s salamander

  • Wingtail crayfish

While some of these plants and animals may appear similar – there are many salamanders and snakes on the list, for example – and at any time these, and others can be added or ‘upgraded’ (which is actually more of a downgrade) to more serious status – every species is a representative of a unique ecosystem and herald of greater environmental concern: Salamanders, for example, are very sensitive to temperature, water quality and minute changes in soil and water chemical balance; snakes often live along transitional zones between environments and are the first to be affected by human disturbance and introduction of non-native predators like house cats.

Lists can be used as a reminder; a schedule; or a call to action to be followed and checked off when the task is done. Let’s hope the record of Threatened and Endangered species doesn’t become something to be crossed out one by one, as each species disappears.


Michonne Says: None of those lists sound very nice. I wouldn’t want to be on any of them. I’d rather be A-nony-Mouse. Or A-nony-Marmot.

Posted August 30, 2015 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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