My Turn: Protecting wild, endangered species a benefit to us all
A common tern broods a chick on Bird Island in Marion, Mass. Wednesday, June 30, 1999. Bird Island, a scant acre of sand and rock in Buzzards Bay, is one of the last toeholds in the North Atlantic for the endangered roseate tern. Currently about 2,000 pairs of common terns are brooding eggs or chicks on the island as well as 1,100 pairs of roseate terns--nearly half of all those that nest in this hemisphere--are doing likewise. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
ADVANCED FOR RELEASE MONDAY, JANUARY 14, 2013 Photographer Michael Furtman came upon this pine marten while he was photographing warblers along Amity Creek in east Duluth, Minn., in 2009. I hunkered down and waited, Furtman said. He spotted me and climbed a tree I took this shot as he peered down on me. (AP Photo/Duluth News Tribune, Michael Furtman)
FILE - This March 23, 2011 file photo shows a dead Karner Blue butterfly in a lab in Concord, N.H. Warmer weather in early spring is spawning more generations of some butterflies in northern climes, scientists say and the rare Karner blue butterfly produced an unprecedented third generation this year thanks to an early start on mating in the unusually hot spring. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, file)
An adult Bald Eage lands at its nest at Lake Lochloosa in Central, Fla., Monday, March 11, 2013, with a large fish for its baby, who is waiting in the foreground. The Bald Eagles can be see over Lakes in Florida at this time of year as they raise their young. Eagles depend on fish as a large part of it's diet but also eat mammals and carrion. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin) NO SALES
As we observe the 40th anniversary of the federal endangered species act this month, it is affirming to look at the progress that’s been made for rare wildlife in New Hampshire. Many of us can remember the “silent spring” that was the catalyst for this key federal legislation that provided protection for species facing possible extinction. By 1970, the pesticide DDT had devastated the nation’s populations of osprey, bald eagles, peregrine falcons and other birds of prey. In response to this and other wildlife disasters, in 1973, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act.
New Hampshire passed a similar law in 1979, a time when no bald eagles, one peregrine falcon and just four ospreys nested here. Soon after, in 1980, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department announced the state’s first list of threatened and endangered wildlife species. At that time, Fish and Game had no staff dedicated to protecting rare wildlife. That began to change in 1988, when the state’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program was established.
Now in its 25th year, the Nongame Program is part of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Wildlife Division. Over the years, the Nongame Program grew from a staff of one to a leader for statewide conservation efforts. It works with partners in the nonprofit and private sectors to protect threatened and endangered species in New Hampshire, and to keep common species common. This work is made possible with federal funding from state wildlife grants, expertise from conservation nonprofits, an annual financial matching grant from the state and financial support from private New Hampshire citizens. We have a lot to celebrate, thanks to the Nongame Program. Success stories include:
∎ Karner blue butterflies, our official state butterfly, which were once gone from the state, but now breed in the wild here, thanks to intensive captive rearing and habitat restoration.
∎ American pine marten, gaining ground in the Great North Woods.
∎ Some 35 pairs of bald eagles breeding in New Hampshire, and this iconic bird of prey has been removed from the Federal Endangered Species list.
∎ Threatened and endangered common, Arctic and roseate terns breeding and raising their young at the Isles of Shoals. This historic tern breeding site, once abandoned, is now the largest colony in the Gulf of Maine, with over 2,500 nesting pair.
The success stories of the past 25 years give us hope for the future, as does a vitally important tool, developed in collaboration with conservation nonprofits and business partners – the state’s Wildlife Action Plan. The plan provides local governments, land trusts, state agencies and businesses with a road map for restoring, protecting and maintaining critical habitats that are home to populations of the state’s species of conservation and management concern. More than 2,000 people from 140 New Hampshire towns have already attended Wildlife Action Plan workshops, learning to identify and protect key habitats that benefit the greatest diversity of wildlife.
Our successes in the past 25 years have shown that, if we put our minds to it, we can take a wild species near extinction and bring it back. But that’s an expensive process, and one of the goals of the Nongame Program is to keep wildlife off the endangered species list. The program is doing that well, thanks to a mix of private and public funding. The work that’s being done to help rare species and their habitats helps all wildlife and improves the quality of the air and water we all need. The challenges of the next 25 years are likely to be greater still, and will require a unified effort from all of us.
Find out how you can help at wildnh.com/nongame.
(Glenn Normandeau is the executive director of New Hampshire Fish and Game.)