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CONSERVATION CORNER
For the week of December 14, 2009
Brown Pelican Removed From Endangered List
by James L. Cummins

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director, and native Mississippian, Sam Hamilton recently announced that the brown pelican is being removed from the list of threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. This should be good news for the Coast.

The brown pelican was first declared endangered in 1970 under the Endangered Species Preservation Act, a precursor to the current Endangered Species Act. There are now more than 650,000 brown pelicans found across Florida and the Gulf and Pacific Coasts, as well as in the Caribbean and Latin America.

The Fish and Wildlife Service removed the brown pelican population in Alabama, Georgia, Florida and northward along the Atlantic Coast states from the list of endangered species in 1985. This recent action removes the remaining population.

The pelican's recovery is largely due to the federal ban on the general use of the pesticide DDT in 1972. This action was taken after former Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist Rachel Carson published Silent Spring and alerted the nation to the widespread dangers associated with unrestricted pesticide use.

Hamilton praised the Gulf and Pacific Coast states for their constant efforts to restore this iconic coastal species. "Brown pelicans could not have recovered without a strong and continuing support network of partnerships among federal and state government agencies, tribes, conservation organizations and individual citizens," said Hamilton.

Louisiana, long known as the "pelican state," and the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission jointly implemented a restoration project. A total of 1,276 young pelicans were captured in Florida and released at three sites in Southeastern Louisiana during the 13 years of the project.

Past efforts to protect the brown pelican actually led to the birth of the National Wildlife Refuge System more than a century ago in Central Florida. German immigrant Paul Kroegel, appalled by the slaughter of pelicans for their feathers, approached President Theodore Roosevelt. This led Roosevelt to create the first National Wildlife Refuge at Pelican Island in 1903, of which Kroegel was named the first refuge manager.

The Service has developed a Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan, designed to monitor and verify that the recovered, delisted population remains secure from the risk of extinction once the protections of the ESA are removed. The Service can relist the brown pelican if future monitoring or other information shows it is necessary to prevent a significant risk to the brown pelican.


James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi.