The Endangered Species Act at Forty
In 1973, when the Endangered Species Act became law, the landscape of plant conservation was very different than it is today. Deciding which plants were rare meant combing through botanical publications and visiting herbaria to look at labels on dried specimens, labels that were often very vague about locations. We convened meetings of botanical species experts to compile and synthesize the best available information. We typed up and mailed, not emailed, our meeting notes.
What a difference forty years makes! Think of the explosion of digital information and sharing methods we use routinely now. We have online databases of herbarium records. We can upload digital photographs to the internet the same day we take them. We have Global Positioning System (GPS) software to map plant populations precisely and Geographic Information System (GIS) software to display this information in map format and to model habitats. We can have easy and instantaneous conversations among the diverse people knowledgeable about particular plant groups. All this information exchange makes it possible now to decide with better certainty which plants are rare, where they grow, what threats they face, and what can be done to conserve and restore them.
On this 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, the Forest Service not only celebrates some remarkable stories of Endangered and Threatened plant and animal recovery, but also its Sensitive Species program. The Sensitive Species program was created to inventory, monitor, and manage and conserve rare species to help them thrive on National Forest System lands, so they will never need the safety net provided by the Endangered Species Act.
These successes would not be possible without our many partners. NatureServe and the system of state Heritage programs who track species rarity and threats across all land ownerships play critical conservation roles. Native plant societies, botanical gardens, civic organizations, and universities provide citizen scientists and volunteers to assist with inventory, monitoring, and restoration of rare plant populations and their habitats. The skilled staffs of botanical gardens and nurseries propagate rare plants for reintroduction programs, develop educational displays for public events, and conserve seeds in long-term storage facilities.
Each rare species recovery story is unique because each plant and animal has its own life history, its own ecological niche, and its own cast of important conservation partners. We invite you to read these stories and be inspired!
- Chippewa National Forest Instrumental in Success of the Bald Eagle (PDF, 143 KB)
- Fassett’s Locoweed (PDF, 247 KB)
- Robbins’ Cinquefoil (PDF, 173 KB)
Pacific Northwest Region
Pacific Southwest Region
- Greene's tuctoria (Tuctoria greenei) (PDF, 265 KB)
Rocky Mountain Region
- Black-footed Ferret Recovery (PDF, 158 KB)
- Blowout Penstemon (PDF, 266 KB)
- Penland Mosquito Range Mustard (PDF, 270 KB)
- Ute Ladies’-Tresses Orchid (PDF, 282 KB)
- Arizona Cliffrose (PDF, 140 KB)
- Loach Minnow (PDF, 245 KB)
- Holy Ghost Ipompsis (PDF, 143 KB)
- Paradine Plains Cactus (PDF, 369 KB)
- San Francisco Peaks Ragwort (PDF, 182 KB)