It’s hard to get a species listed on the ESA, but what about delisting?

We know the complications surrounding getting species put on the list of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but little has been discussed regarding getting species delisted. The goal of the ESA is to recover a species to the point that measures provided by the act are no longer necessary. However, of the nearly 1400 species on the list only 22 have been delisted as recovered. This number is misleading as to the actual effectiveness of the ESA.

Carol Bocetti, Dale Goble, and J. Michael Scott conducted a research study focused on the Kirtland’s warbler analyzing the difficulty of getting species removed from the ESA list. Even after species have been restored to a sustainable population sizes they require conservative actions dependent on the ESA. These are called conservation-reliant species. 80% of the species listed on ESA have some degree of conservation reliance. The main issue is that if actions end due to unlisting, the species will be exposed to threats that originally led to their endangerment. Delisting is prohibited if any necessary recovery strategy will not be continued.

This study proposes the use of conservation management agreements (CMAs) to provide a mechanism to protect conservation-reliant species after delisting. The four main elements of a CMA are partnerships that makes management possible, management plans based on species successful recover, sufficient funding, and legal enforcement.

The case study analyzed in this article is the Kirtland’s warbler. This keystone species is native to Michigan and experienced a dramatic population crash down to 201 males in 1971. This endangerment was due to forest fragmentation, fire suppression, and human introduced pathogens. The warbler was placed on the ESA when it was founded in 1967. Protective actions from this act allowed the species to reach its recovery goal of at least 1000 breeding pairs in 2001. However, the species has not been suggested for delisting because this would lead to a decrease in funding and necessary protective actions by the ESA. Kirtland’s warbler is an example of a species that has reached the recovery goals, however the threats facing the landscape are not eliminated; they temporarily under control. There are many other examples of conservation-reliant species that have reached stable population sizes but cannot be removed from the list until other strategies are in place to ensure their continued protection.

Kirtland’s warbler is being used as a model to analyze how the use of CMAs could lead to the delisting of other conservation-reliant species. The Kirtland’s Warbler Recovery Team is working with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to develop a strong conservation partnership to establish an endowed trust fund and secure an enforceable CMA.

The current goal is to form CMAs by getting memoranda of agreement (MOA) signed to form partnerships willing to protect a species after it has been delisted. It is important that species are delisted so that the public can perceive the effectiveness of the ESA. The ESA already has difficulty getting funding and support so it is important to portray the effectiveness and importance of the act. The low delisting rates of the ESA result in a bad public perception of the effectiveness of the ESA leading to a funding controversy. By forming CMAs more conservation-reliant species can be removed from the list, thus displaying the effectiveness of the act at restoring their population size. The CMAs will then be in place to maintain the already developed measures to reduce threats to the species.

The ESA has had significant effects for many endangered species in the US, its time for the public to realize just how important of an effect this act has by removing species from the list. Delisting may also make is easier to add new species in need of protection to the list. In addition, the formation of CMAs gets many people involved in the protection of restored species populations and allows them to positively see conservation biology in action

By Hannah Millimet

Article source:

Bocetti, Carol I., Goble, Dale D., and Scott, J. Michael. (2012) Using Conservation Management Agreements to Secure Postrecovery Perpetuation of Conservation-Relaint Species: The Kirtland’s Warbler as a Case Study. Bioscience. doi: 10.1525/bio.2012.62.10.7

Image source:,_USA_-male-8_(5).jpg

This entry was posted in Conservation Biology Posts, Conservation Blogs 2012-2013. Bookmark the permalink.

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