DEP updates “threatened” and “endangered” species lists

TRENTON – The Department of Environmental Protection classified the bald eagle as a “threatend species” and the Cooper’s hawk as “a special concern,” among other changes in its species status list it adopted on Tuesday.

Others, however, like the red knot and American kestrel, did not fare as well, as each of those species saw their populations dwindle. Several other birds cracked one of the lists, due to various scientific factors like population levels, trends, threats, and habitat conditions.

Regarding the bald eagle’s status upgrade from endangered to threatened for the non-breeding season, the DEP said there have been population improvements that stem from the discontinuation of DDT and other pesticides, DEP management, habitat protection, and improved water quality. It, however, remains listed as endangered in New Jersey during the breeding season.

Also, the Cooper’s hawk was upgraded from threatened to special concern in the breeding season.  According to the DEP, this hawk has recovered from the past use of pesticides and has reoccupied much of the forested habitats in the state.

Other big changes and additions include:

* A new category for species of special concern, due to population declines or vulnerability to habitat disturbances.

* Seven bird species were upgraded for the non-breeding portion of their populations, including the bald eagle, osprey, peregrine falcon, red-shouldered hawk, northern goshawk, short-eared owl, and vesper sparrow.

*  Five species have been added to the endangered list: three birds – the black rail, golden-winged warbler and red knot; the gray petaltail, a species of dragonfly; and the Indiana bat, which is listed as federally endangered.

* Nine species were added to the threatened species category:  three birds, American kestrel, cattle egret and horned lark; and six dragonfly species.

Endangered species are those whose survival chances are in immediate danger due to one or several factors, such as loss or degradation of habitat, exploitation, predation, competition, disease or environmental degradation.  A threatened species is one that could become endangered due to its small population size, restricted range and/or specialized habitat needs.

DEP officials said the threatened and endangered species lists are important tools in guiding a variety of state, federal and local agencies to make sound decisions on projects and better protect wildlife and their habitats.

“This update to the state’s lists of threatened and endangered species uses the best scientific methods available to provide us with an accurate assessment of the health of our wildlife,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said in a statement. “The success of our threatened and endangered wildlife is an important indicator of the health of our overall environment.  We have many positive takeaways from this most recent update to the lists, but we are also reminded that much work still lies ahead of us.”

DEP updates “threatened” and “endangered” species lists