Unfortunately, stories of animals becoming endangered are way more common than the reverse, but perhaps this makes it even more important to celebrate the success we do have. The Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel, one of the “veterans” on the endangered list can finally say goodbye to the list.
“The natural world is amazingly resilient, especially when a broad collection of partners works together to help it,” Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is a major victory for the Endangered Species Act and the Delmarva fox squirrel itself, and much credit is due to the federal biologists who have worked for decades to rebuild the squirrel’s populations. But we could not have reached this point without the many citizen-conservationists who changed the way they managed their forest lands to make this victory possible, and I am deeply appreciative of their efforts.”
The Delmarva fox squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus) is a subspecies of the squirrel native to the United States, listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1967; at the time, almost 90% of its habitat was destroyed through deforestation and urban development. A recovery plan was developed in 1979 and revised in 1983 and 1993, and step by step, habitat protection and conservation measures have ensured that the species was able to make a recovery. Most notably, private and publicly owned lands were used to serve as habitat restoration areas, as private lands within the Delmarva fox squirrel range constitute for ~87% of the entire historical range. Private cooperation was key in the redevelopment of the habitat.
The entire project has been listed as a success story, with the species now boasting over 20,000 individuals. The work is still not over, but the progress is definitely there.
“The Act provides flexibility and incentives to build partnerships with states and private landowners to help recover species while supporting local economic activity,” said the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Michael Bean. “I applaud the states of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia, and the many partners who came together over the years to make this day possible.”
It’s a small battle that we’ve won here, and many more others still await, as many other animals are still on the endangered list.