Monday, December 28, 2009
The brown pelican was first declared endangered in 1970 under the Endangered Species Preservation Act, a precursor to the current Endangered Species Act. There are now more than 650,000 brown pelicans found across Florida and the Gulf and Pacific Coasts, as well as in the Caribbean and Latin America.
The pelican may not be a species that has an attachment to New Jersey, but past efforts to protect the pelican actually play an important role in protecting all endangered species.
Early attempts to protect the brown pelican led to the birth of the National Wildlife Refuge System more than a century ago in Central Florida. Paul Kroegel, appalled by the slaughter of pelicans for their feathers, approached President Theodore Roosevelt about the situation and it led Roosevelt to create the first National Wildlife Refuge at Pelican Island in 1903. Kroegel was named the first refuge manager.
The Fish and Wildlife Service had already removed the brown pelican population in Alabama, Georgia, Florida and northward along the Atlantic Coast states from the list of endangered species in 1985. The 2009 action removes the remaining population.
Why did the pelicans recover? That is largely due to the federal ban on the general use of the pesticide DDT in 1972. This action was taken after former Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Rachel Carson published her book, Silent Spring, which alerted the nation to the widespread dangers associated with unrestricted pesticide use.
The FWS has developed a plan designed to monitor and verify that the recovered, delisted population of pelicans remains secure from the risk of extinction once the protections of the ESA are removed. The Service can relist the brown pelican if future monitoring or other information shows it is necessary to prevent a significant risk to the brown pelican.