The purpose of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), passed by Congress in 1973, is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. This law came about due to concern that many of our nation’s native plants and animals were in danger of becoming extinct.
Under the ESA, species may be listed as either endangered or threatened. “Endangered” means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. “Threatened” means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. “Candidates” are those species for which there is enough information to propose them for listing. The ESA is administered by two regulatory agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The FWS has primary responsibility for terrestrial and freshwater organisms, while NMFS has responsibility for marine wildlife including whales and anadromous fish such as salmon.
Redwood National and State Parks receives a list from the regulatory agencies with endangered, threatened, and candidate species that may occur in the parks. Included on this list are 2 plants, 2 invertebrates, 6 fish, 4 reptiles (all sea turtles), 6 birds, 7 marine mammals (Steller sea lion and 6 large whales), and 1 mammal (fisher)[hyperlink]. However, of these 28 species only the following occur regularly within the parks:
Beach Layia (Layia carnosa)
Coho and Chinook Salmon and Steelhead (Oncorhynchus kisutch, O. tshawytscha, and O. mykiss)
Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus)
Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus nivosus)
Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina)
Steller sea lion (Eumatopias jubatus)
Fisher (Pekania pennanti)
Two species on the list have been extirpated within the parks, Tidewater Goby (Eucyclogobius newberryi) and Eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus).
Some species occur only sporadically within the parks, for example Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) and Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaengliae).
The rest of the species, including other large mysticete whales and the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), the sea turtles, and short-tailed albatross (Phoebastris albatrus), occur very rarely and only when veering out of their normal ranges. Other species are on the parks’ list because potentially suitable habitat occurs within the parks and, in some cases, extensive surveys to determine the species presence have not been conducted.
The ultimate goal of the ESA is to recover species to the point that they no longer require protection under the law. Redwood National and State Parks do their part to recover listed species by protecting suitable habitats, protecting individual animals and plants, and restoring degraded habitats for fish and wildlife.