Protecting brown pelicans means protecting the fragile land masses where they live.© U.S. Fish & Wildlife
The Bush administration is proposing to take yet another wildlife species—the brown pelican—off the federal endangered list based on the bird’s recovery in recent years.
"The pelican has pulled off an amazing recovery after a steep plunge toward extinction," said Interior Secretary Dick Kempthorne, who has previously challenged the Endangered Species Act. With the announcement, the Interior Department begins a year-long process of soliciting public input on the matter and reviewing the science behind the pelicans" recovery.
The bird was first placed on the endangered list in 1970 throughout the U.S., although rebounding populations along the Atlantic coast and Alabama’s Gulf Shore were exempted from protections in 1985. Today, brown pelicans remain officially endangered across their western range, which includes Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, California, Oregon and Washington.
Some environmentalists remain worried that removing protection for the pelicans will be tantamount to wiping the species out, despite its recovery in recent years. More dependent for survival on the coastal barrier islands where they raise their young than on any law or lack thereof, brown pelicans" future remains uncertain. Keeping the brown pelicans on the endangered list gives greens a valuable tool with which to advocate for protecting such fragile and important land masses that shield low-lying cities from the ravages of storm surges and other flooding.
"Those are the living grounds for the brown pelican," Oliver Houck, an environmental lawyer at Tulane University, told reporters. "Although today we might have strips of land out there, there isn’t any living Louisiana scientist who will tell you with a straight face those islands will exist in 40 years."