It is now time to get to work implementing the many actions in the 2015 NH Wildlife Action Plan. One of these actions was to use the updated wildlife species data to revise the list of endangered and threatened species in New Hampshire. This was accomplished over several months in the fall of 2016.
Why do we do this? There are some species whose existence in New Hampshire is unlikely to continue unless we do something to help them, such as removing threats or restoring habitat. Under RSA 212-A, NHFG is tasked with creating this list and revising it periodically. It is important to reevaluate it so we are concentrating our efforts on the species that need it the most. There are some species that are in better shape now than in the recent past. This means they can be removed from the list (delisted). Delisting means we have been successful in helping a species recover, and it is certainly cause for celebration!
There are two levels, endangered and threatened. Endangered means “Any species of native wildlife whose continued existence as a viable component of the state’s wild fauna is determined to be in jeopardy.” Threatened species are “Any species of wildlife which appears likely, within the foreseeable future, to become endangered.” Species occurring in NH and listed at the federal level are automatically included, but federally threatened species may be listed as endangered in NH if their status appears worse here.
The list review was coordinated by the Wildlife Action Plan Implementation Team, a group of biologists from NH Fish & Game, NH Audubon, NH Natural Heritage Bureau, and The Nature Conservancy who meet regularly to discuss next steps in the implementation of the plan. For each taxonomic group of species, such as mammals or bees, a group of experts was asked to review the existing data along with any other information they had, and recommend the listing status of each. All Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) were considered, as well as a few species that experts wanted to make sure we considered that had not fit into our SGCN rankings.
Once the experts provided input, the Wildlife Action Plan Implementation Team looked them over and settled on a final list. There was some additional research and some serious discussions about the ramifications of listing and delisting some species. It is important to understand how the listing status can be helpful to a species recovery, how we can prevent reversal of the gains we have made for delisted species, and whether there are other rules that need to be changed as a result of listing or delisting. For delisted species, this includes developing a plan to continue to monitor the species or to continue to abate the threats to the species. For some species, listing them can cause some unusual issues. Little brown bats were listed as endangered, a choice that was quite obvious given the dramatic declines in its population due to White-Nose Syndrome. However, we had to consider that these animals live in people’s houses and other buildings, and that they can carry rabies, a threat to our health. Rules were created to protect both the bats and humans, by limiting evictions of colonies of bats during the time they have pups but allowing for removal when there is a threat to human health.
The last steps were to seek public input on the changes, review their comments and make adjustments if warranted, and get final approval through the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules.
So what is the result? We have added 16 species, 6 as endangered (4 are bats) and 10 as threatened. We down-listed one species from endangered to threatened (ringed boghaunter dragonfly) and delisted 4 species, including Bald Eagles. This is cause for celebration! Bald eagles have rebounded from having only a couple of nests in the 1990s to 42 nests last summer. Pairs are raising multiple young from those nests, and the population continues to grow. American marten populations continue to grow in the North Country. Volunteers with the NH Dragonfly Survey, and in the years since then, have discovered more breeding ponds for ringed boghaunters.
The full list can be found on the NHFG website at http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/nongame/endangered-list.html.
By Emily Preston, NH Fish & Game Department
Spring 2017 Taking Action for Wildlife Newsletter