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 all day were Mondays? 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 all 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. If park facilities are temporarily closed, please have patience and consider visiting another one of Olympic's many wonders. Join us as stewards of your national parks, where care of natural communities is our top priority.
Endangered Species Act, 1973
“…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…”
America's Call For Action
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 in th Pacific 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 and more might die, and their species move towards extinction.
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 may even pick too many flowers; plants go extinct as well, especially if we take land they normally grow on and convert it to department stores or parking lots.
also takes a toll on life. Chemical waste fouls lakes and rivers, making them inhospitable to aquatic creatures. Oil often kills seabirds, mammals and anything else caught in spills. Some lichens are so sensitive to pollutants that they are used as air quality monitors. Air quality is a factor that drives global warming—only time will tell how human impact on the world's climate will affect all species sharing this planet.
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 leaving no trace in the backcountry can all be helpful.
Protection and recovery of threatened and endangered species can be successful. The way we vote and the letters we write to our elected officials can have lasting impacts on the health of ecosystems we all rely upon. Gray whales, bald eagles and peregrine falcons are just a few species that have taken 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