By Jen Mannas, Wildlife Naturalist
It’s Endangered Species day! This is the time to acknowledge the importance of conservation, to recognize what we as a nation are doing to facilitate conservation, and to protect endangered species and their habitat.
So, what does it all mean? What classifies an animal or plant as being endangered? How did this all start?
It is estimated that in the United States more than 500 species of native plants and animals have gone extinct since European settlers first colonized the area. And species are still under threat to becoming extinct in modern times with habitat loss, climate change and human population growth. The rapid loss of species did not go unnoticed and concerns about the whooping crane decline prompted Congress to pass the Endangered Species Preservation Act in 1966 which was replaced by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973.
The purpose of the ESA is to protect and recover imperiled species and to preserve their habitat. The ESA is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who are responsible for land and fresh water organisms, and the National Marine Fisheries Service, who are responsible for marine life.
There are many categories under the ESA but the two main ones are endangered and threatened. Endangered means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant part of its range. Threatened means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.
In the U.S., more than 1300 plant and animal species are currently listed under the ESA; some are right here in Washington. We have more than 50 species of plants and animals that are listed, a species of concern or are a candidate to be listed. This includes Gray Wolves, Northern Leopard Frogs, Nelson’s Checker-mallow, Grizzly Bears, Northern Spotted Owls, Oregon Silverspot Butterflies, Pygmy Rabbits, Bull Trout and Western Snowy Plovers; just to name a few.
PAWS Wildlife Center treats patients each year that are listed under the ESA or a species of concern. One of our biggest contributions to the conservation of listed species is our involvement in the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project. This is a collaboration between the Woodland Park Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Each year we treat those turtles that are suffering from ulcerative shell disease.
Thanks to the protection from the ESA, plant and wildlife species are on their way to recovery and several have been successfully delisted with the most famous of course being the Bald Eagle. And that is a reason to celebrate!
If you are in the Seattle area and looking for a place to join the celebration, Magnuson Park is hosting an Endangered Species Day garden celebration in their children’s garden on May 20 from 10am until noon. King County Master Gardeners, Children's Garden Committee members, and volunteers from Seattle Works and other groups will be doing simple garden stewardship activities such as weeding, mulching, and watering, as well as planting native Milkweed plants in our Butterfly Garden!
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