Cut and run
  The most diverse forest
  Three different forest

  Four seasons
  Colorful fall season
  Flowers galore
  Endangered species
  Lots of forests
  Cutting down the trees
  Forest fun
  Acid Rain

Endangered Species       The forested hills and mountains with their streams contain a diverse array of creatures. Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a touching and insightful book about nature's fecundity through the seasons.

      Some of our flora and fauna are endangered:   The West Virginia Natural Heritage program conducts an ongoing statewide ecological inventory of rare plant and animal species, wetlands, and other biological communities.  The Nature Conservancy keeps track:  A survey of states shows that West Virginia has the second largest number of endangered species at 19 but Virginia has 49.  What is going on there?  To view these lists:

     Biologists in the state's Division of Natural Resources' Wildlife and Natural Heritage Program monitor recovery programs for this state's endangered species. The recovery program is mandated by federal law. One of these species is the Virginia big-eared bat. About half of the world's population (20,000 to 25,000) of these bats live in three caves in West Virginia.

     Sometimes efforts are made to expand the list endngered species. Such is the case of the cerulean warbler, whose color is as splendid as a pristine Caribbean lagoon.

      Animal history. History buffs may be familiar with the large diversity of animals which populated West Virginia in pre-industrial days.  In Webster County is a road sign which documents the last bison seen in the state. 

      The early history of European exploration is one of unrestrained slaughter of animals for food and fashion (furs).  From the 1700s through the 1850s hunting pressures were too great for the animal population to withstand and the immense wealth of wildlife shrunk to alarmingly small numbers.  In the latter half of the Nineteenth Century regret set in at the decimation of native species of animals. State enforcement of wildlife laws was inadequate. 

     George Grinnell, editor of Forest and Stream and founder of the National Audobon Society in 1886, pushed for interest groups to lobby Congress.  The Lacey Act of 1900, which prohibits interstate shipment of wildlife in violation of state law, was the first federal wildlife statute.  Other new statutes followed.  The 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits the taking without a federal permit of any species of bird protected by the act.

      Perspectives. Two differing viewpoints co-existed in the conservation movment of the day.  Gifford Pinchot, creator of the Forest Service and head of Roosevelt's National Conservation Committee, expressed the utilitarian perspective.  Natural resources are to serve the "greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time."  This view favors management of natural resources to sustain continued human use of them.  The non-utilitarian view emphasized preservation of natural resources -- wildlife and wild places, for their intrinsic value. Preservationists took inspiration from Thoreau and John Muir.

      In the 1920s and 1930s Aldo Leopold researched and established the first sound principles of wildlife management.  Much scientific research followed and in 1940 the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service was created by the merger of two agencies.  In time, as public attitudes changed, the utiliarian view of resource management gave ground to preservation.  That is, wildlife increasingly was valued for its intrinsic value. In 1945 the Smithsonian Institution published the first list of endangered species.

      A warning heeded. In 1962 Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring caught the imagination of the American public with its discription of the impending disaster to birds from pesticides, particularly DDT.  The wellspring of attention led to enactment of the Endangered Species Act in 1966, now considered to have been a weak statute because it failed to prohibit or limit the taking of endangered species. In 1972 the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of DDT and related pesticides. That same year the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 banned the taking of protected species.

     One year later the Endangered Species Act of 1973 superceded the 1966 statute. This time the act prohibited the taking of any member of an endangered species wherever found (on private, state, or federal lands).

      The statute. The Endangered Species Act 0f 1973 [16 U. S. Code secs. 1531 et. seq.] specifically recognizes that endangered "species of fish, wildlife, and plants, are of esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people."  Its stated purposes are to conserve ecosystems of endangered species and to provide a program to conserve endangered species and threatened species. [16 U. S. Code sec. 1531(b)].

     The Secretary of the Interior has the authority to declare species to be endangered using statutory criteria [16 U. S. Code sec. 1533], to publish a list of all such species, and to issue regulations to protect them.

     Designation of critical habitat is a process which maps areas occupied by endangered species. This process is expensive and there is debate as to when to map -- in the beginning or after a comprehensive plan for protection of species has been prepared.

     Citizen lawsuits are allowed to enjoin violators of the act, to compel the Secretary to  apply statutory prohibitions, or to compel the Secretary to carry out duties.  [16 U. S. Code sec. 1540(g)].  

      The "taking" of endangered species includes "harm" to them.  [16 U. S. Code sec. 1532(19)].  Damage to habitat that affects species' breeding, feeding, and shelter is harm.  The act's absolute ban on taking was relaxed in 1982 amendments for "otherwise lawful activity" where the taking is "incidental" to the activity.  "Incidental take permits" are issued.  Federal taking of endangered species can be authorized by the Endangered Species Committee.  [16 U. S. Code sec. 1536(e)].
Last updated on Tuesday, July 24, 2001