Olympic's Essential Habitat
Olympic is one of the most diverse wilderness areas in the United States. Its wide variety of ecosystems provide habitat critical to the survival of sensitive species, such as wild salmon, northern spotted owls, and marbled murrelets. Olympic is truly a refuge for life at risk. It protects one of the largest remaining parcels of pristine habitat for some threatened or endangered species.
What if everyday was Monday? Would we ever get rest? Our natural community needs quiet time, too. Biologists determine when threatened species are most vulnerable to impacts such as helicopter noise and siltation in rivers. Birds are most at risk during their spring and summer nesting seasons, while salmon most need protection during their upstream spawning runs. Park staff plan projects around these times, to minimize impacts to threatened species and their critical habitats. We strive to work around, not through, natural lifecycles.
As stewards of Olympic National Park, visitors, maintenance workers, researchers, educators, and rangers protect species at risk. The park may need to close a trail or postpone road or bridge repairs to increase survival chances for threatened and endangered species. So we call on you for help. If park facilities are temporarily closed, please have patience. Visit another of Olympic's many wonders. Join us as stewards of your national parks, where care of natural communities is our top priority. Healthy parks are essential for threatened species and important to visitors––it is what people expect and enjoy.
Endangered Species Act, 1973
America's Call For Action
“…to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved, to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered species and threatened species…”
What is an Endangered Species?
The Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973 to help preserve our national heritage. The Act defines an endangered species as one with so few individuals left that the species might go extinct. When a species goes extinct, nothing can bring it back. A threatened species is one that might become endangered if we don't take steps to protect it.
How does a species become endangered?
Habitat loss and fragmentation are major threats, especially here in the Northwest. While new habitat for some species is created when a forest is clearcut, rarer plants and animals that once lived there may be left homeless. Where will they go? Some can only travel so far. If there is no other suitable forest for miles around, those birds, mammals or salamanders, etc... might die, and their species move towards extinction.
Overharvesting may also decrease plant and animal populations. Depending on the health of their populations, we can catch too many salmon or hunt too many elk. We can even pick too many flowers. Plants go extinct too, especially if we take land they normally grow on and convert it to department stores or parking lots.
Pollution also takes a toll. Chemical waste fouls lakes and rivers, making them inhospitable to aquatic creatures. Oil often kills seabirds, mammals, and anything else caught in spills. Air pollution can kill––some lichens are so vulnerable to pollutants they are used to monitor air quality. Air quality also drives global warming. Only time will tell how our impact on the world's climate will affect all species.
How can my actions affect endangered species?
Olympic National Park takes an ecosytem approach to management. We believe that the health and survival of individual species depends on the health of entire habitats. Research continues to confirm that all components of natural systems are interdependent, and dependent on the decisions and actions of humans. Any contribution we make to the well-being of an ecosystem can benefit all species living in it, endangered or not. Simple actions like picking up trash or practicing leave no trace camping in the backcountry, can all be helpful. The way we vote and the letters we write our elected officials, can impact the health of ecosystems we all rely upon.
Protection and recovery of threatened and endangered species can work. Gray whales, bald eagles, and peregrine falcons are just a few species that have taken giant leaps away from the brink of extinction, thanks to cooperation between managers and concerned citizens.
Local Species On the Brink
(As of 2016)
Northern spotted owl
Western snowy plover
Puget Sound steelhead
Salmon: Ozette Lake sockeye
Puget Sound chinook
Hood Canal summer chum
Humpback whale (depending on the distinct population segment)
*eliminated by the 1920s
"The house of America is founded on our land and if we keep that whole, then the storm can rage, but the house will stand forever."
-Lyndon B. Johnson