10 Magical Places on Earth That Have Been Saved By Endangered Species

Written by on May 22, 2016 in Environment, Wildlife with 4 Comments
Hakalau forest national wildlife refuge-compressed

© Hawaii Guide

By Melissa Breyer | Tree Hugger

In our efforts to save animals at risk of extinction, we’ve saved some extraordinary places as well.

The Endangered Species Act was signed in December of 1973, providing agency for the conservation of species that are endangered or threatened – the beautiful bonus is that the conservation of the habitat on which they depend is consequently, and necessarily, protected as well.

Jamie Pang and Brett Hartl from the Center for Biological Diversity had this in mind when they penned their report, Saving Species and Wild Space: 10 Extraordinary Places Saved by the Endangered Species Act. In it they highlight not only that the Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the plant and animal species it shields, but that the Act’s protective measures help revitalize and keep safe the places where they live, including some of the world’s most remarkable forests, plains, deserts and oceans. From the report:

Related Article: Rising CO2 Levels Are Making The Earth Greener, Says New Scientific Study

Though land acquisition and the creation of wildlife refuges to better management of public lands and waters to pollution control, the Act provides a comprehensive framework to recover endangered species. Those same highly effective conservation tools help to restore and revive ecosystems that have become degraded after decades of abuse. All across the United States, the conservation benefits of endangered species protection spread far beyond individual protected species to entire ecological communities key to the long-term health of thousands of species, including humans.

The authors note that hundreds of millions of acres of land and water have rebounded and are being beautifully cared for and protected, and it creates a bit of a snowball effect. When a wildlife refuge is established for the protection of an endangered species, thousands more species of plants and animals also benefit. “The landscapes, seascapes and waterways we cherish and depend on are healthier and more vibrant as a direct result of the proven conservation tools provided by the Endangered Species Act.”

Here are 10 places the report gives a shout-out to:

1. Pacific Kelp Forests


© Neil Fisher / NOAA 

Sea otters are a classic example of a “keystone species” – a species of whose decline quickly unravels a whole ecosystem – which was evidenced with their plummeting population along the coast from California to Oregon. Long hunted for their fur, as sea otter populations declined, sea urchin populations boomed since they were no longer serving as prey for the otters. The urchins pillaged the underwater kelp forests, which had a negative impact on 20 species of fish and marine mammals, including sea lions, whales, sea otters and invertebrates like sea snails. The kelp forests also play an important part in preventing shoreline erosion and absorbing greenhouse gases. After being listed as a threatened species in 1977, sea otters have gradually rebounded, as have the kelp forests.

2. Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, Hawaii

HawaiiHarmonyonPlanetEarth/flickr/CC BY 2.0

Islands have it great, and islands have it tough. The Hawaiian islands are some of the most biodiverse regions of the United States, but also a hotbed of endangered species, thanks much to invasive species that the native fauna and flora are no match for. The introduction of rats, cats, cane toads, mongooses, goats and pigs and a melange of other non-native plants and animals have helped diminish Hawaiian species. The Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge (pictured top) on Hawaii’s big island was established in 1997 and is completely fenced off to allow for the elimination of feral pigs and other invasive species and to serve as the future introduction site for the extinct-in-the-wild `alalā, or Hawaiian crow, notes the report. Now the thriving refuge plays home to many endangered species, like the Hawaii `akepa, Hawaii creeper, `akiapōlā`au, the `io or Hawaiian hawk, the ōpe`ape`a or Hawaiian hoary bat, and others.

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3. San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona

Hillebrand Steve, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Steve Hillebrand/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Public Domain

This 2,300-acre refuge was established in the early 1980s for the protection of four endangered fish species endemic to the Río Yaqui – the Yaquitopminnow, Yaqui chub, Yaqui beautiful shiner and Yaqui catfish. The refuge also protects the remaining parts of the San Bernardino ciénega – an integral marsh that serves as a migratory corridor for important migrating species, without the marsh many struggling species of fishes, birds, mammals, bees, butterflies and amphibians would not be able to survive the desert. In the meantime, other species like the threatened Chiricahua leopard frog, threatened Mexican garter snake and endangered lesser long-nosed bat have also been given a second lease on survival thanks to the conservation efforts.

4. Balcones Canyonlands Nat’l Wildlife Refuge, Texas


Matthew High/USFWS/flickr/CC BY 2.0

Created in 1992 to protect two endangered songbirds, the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo, the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge near Austin serves to protect some of the last remaining Ashe juniper and oak woodlands in the state. With the creation of the refuge, the warbler’s population grew from 3,526 to 11,920 in less than two decades, and vireo’s population on the refuge increased from 153 males in 1987 to 11,392 in 2013. Many, many other species have benefited as well.

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5. Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge, Alabama

Sauta cave

Alan Cressler/flickr/CC BY 2.0

This 264-acre refuge created in the forest of northeastern Alabama was specifically created to protect the endangered Indiana bat and gray bat. Gray bats dropped dramatically in the last century due to mining, cave disturbance, vandalism, persecution, flooding, deforestation and possibly pesticides. They have rebounded from a population of 2.2 million to 3.4 million in 2006. In addition to providing a safe place for the two endangered bats, the refuge is also home to 250 federally endangered Price’s potato-bean plants, the imperiled Tennessee cave salamander, a candidate species, and the Rafinesque’s big-eared bat.


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