Threatened & Endangered Species and the Private Lnadowner
Cover image, globe with USA map and Northeastern Area Map
Karner blue butterfly - Photograph by Richard Field, USFWS Have you ever asked one of these questions about threatened and endangered species?
{short description of image} What are threatened and endangered species?
{short description of image} I wouldn't know an endangered species if I stepped on one; how am I supposed to know if I have one on my property?
{short description of image} Isn't the process of extinction natural?
{short description of image} How can I enhance my property to support an endangered or threatened species?
{short description of image} Will management of my property be regulated if I have an endangered species on it?
{short description of image} What is the roll of Federal and State Agencies in the management of threatened and endangered species?
{short description of image} What can I do to help?
This information was assembled after three years of answering questions and listening to concerns from a variety of sources, including natural resource professionals and landowners. This document answers the questions listed above and includes the names of Federally listed species. This information will help demystify the subject of threatened and endangered species, sometimes referred to as T&E species.
Threatened and Endangered Species
What is an endangered or threatened species?
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 defines "endangered" as "any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range." "Threatened" is defined as "any species which is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range."

Why do species become endangered?
In many cases, declines in populations of plants and animals are caused by more than one event. Habitat degradation and destruction by humans are the most serious threats to wildlife and plants worldwide. Destruction occurs through development activities; environmental pollution; introduction of invasive, nonnative species; overharvesting of wild species; and conversion of habitat to other uses.

Isn't extinction natural?
Extinction can be and has been a natural process; however, we have accelerated the process to the degree where we can no longer attribute the increasing loss of plants and animals to "natural" processes. Current extinction rates are estimated to be at least ten thousand times greater than natural levels.

Which species are threatened or endangered?

See the "Threatened and Endangered Species" list for Federally listed species in the back of this brochure. Check with your State wildlife agency and Natural Heritage Program (See "Where to Go For Assistance" lists) to find out what the threatened and endangered species (T&E Species) are in your state.

Why should I care about an insect (we have plenty of insects), a mussel, or one plant?
Many species are indicators of environmental quality. When a species is threatened or endangered, it usually means that something is wrong with a resource that we also depend upon. For example, a mussel can act as a water quality indicator: when the mussel is threatened or endangered the quality of water that we depend upon is most likely degraded. In addition, many plants have given us medicines to treat cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses. Taxol (from the Pacific yew) for the treatment of cancer and digitalis (from foxglove) for the treatment of cardiac arrhythmias are just two examples. Many more medicines may be discovered in the coming years. In addition, each {short description of image}
plant and animal is an important part of the balance of the entire community of living things. The loss of even one species can have a significant effect on many others. Species depend upon each other, like parts of the human body, to make a functioning whole.
Private Property
Land Ownership in the Northeastern Area... 44% of the U.S. population lives in the 20 States of the Northeast and Midwest. Is private property important to T&E species?
Yes. Private property is very important in the management and conservation of T&E species because 75 percent of them occur on private land. And of the nation's forest land, 72 percent is privately owned-a percentage that increases east of the Mississippi River to over 90 percent in Maine.

How do I know if I have an endangered species on my property?
With approximately 1,000 species of plants and animals listed nationwide it can be difficult to know what the T&E species are, what they look like, what their habitat is. If you need assistance in determining if an endangered species lives on your property, contact your State Natural Heritage or Natural Areas Program. (See the "Natural Heritage Program" list of "Where to Go for Assistance.") Natural Heritage Programs keep records about the location and biology of many species. They make this information available to landowners, businesses, organizations, and government agencies. In addition, your state has a Threatened and Endangered Species Coordinator, who most often is located at the agency that holds the legal authority for T&E species in your state. These agencies can help you to make an informed decision about how to manage your land.
With so many species of plants listed as threatened or endangered nationwide, is there a good chance that at least one would be located on my property?
Not necessarily. Many of the listed species are localized in their existence. For example, the only known place on earth of a wild population of the furbish's lousewort is along the St. Johns River in Maine, and New Brunswick, Canada.

Is it possible to receive financial help for the management of T&E species?
Yes. The Stewardship Incentive Program is the cost-sharing component of the Forest Stewardship Program. If you are enrolled, you may be eligible or receive financial assistance to enhance the habitat of a threatened or endangered species. Call your State
Furbish's lousewort - photo
Stewardship Coordinator (see the "Forest Stewardship Program" list of "Where to Go for Assistance") for more information on your State's Forest Stewardship Program. There are also programs offered by the ....Furbish's lousewort.
....Photograph provided by

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that can provide assistance for threatened and endangered species. Call the nearest office for more information. (See inside front cover for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service contacts.)
State and Federal Regulations
What is the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA)?
The Endangered Species Act is a law that was enacted in 1973 for this purpose:
1. To identify animals and plants that are in trouble.
2. To protect these plants and animal and their habitat.

What is the difference between a State listed species and a Federally listed species?
Peregrine falcon chicks - photo
States determine standards for listing species that live within the borders of their state regardless of how rare or common they are outside those borders. A Federally listed species must be threatened or endangered throughout all or a significant portion of the geographic range in which it lives. ..Peregrine falcon chicks.
..Photograph by
..Michael Amaral,
Which states have some form of legal protection or threatened or endangered animals?
All fifty United States.

Which states have some form of legal protection for threatened or endangered plants?
Some states have protection, some do not. For those states that do, the protection varies from state to state. For information about the legal protection in your state, contact your State's Natural Heritage or Threatened and Endangered Species Coordinator. (See "Where
Virginia big-eared bat-photo
to Go for Assistance" lists.) Virginia big eared bat.
Photograph provided by

Information, Not Limitation
Is it possible to use my property for recreation or timber harvests if a threatened or endangered species lives there?
Absolutely! These activities are often compatible with the existence of a threatened or endangered species and the species may occur within a limited area that can be readily avoided. The contact listed in this document can help you determine what activities would be appropriate if you have a listed species living on your property. For example, to avoid disturbing nesting bald eagles during their breeding period, the agency may recommend that you maintain a protective area around the nest. In most cases, management activities can proceed as planned. In over twenty years (since the enactment of the Endangered Species Act) not a single case seeking compensation for illegal seizure of private property under the Endangered Species Act has come to the U.S. Court of Claims.

What are the legal restrictions if an endangered species lives on my property?
There are different legal protections for plants and animals.

The Federal ESA prohibits "taking" of an endangered or threatened animal. This means that you cannot "harm harass, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect any threatened or endangered species." "Taking" can also mean habitat alternation resulting in harm to the species. Whether on private or Federal land, whether intentional or unintentional, the "taking" of a listed animal is illegal. Protection in addition to this may be afforded through your State's Endangered Species Act.
3 photos endangered species, 1. Plymouth redbelly turtle, 2. Dward wedgemussel, 3. Northeastern beach tiger beetle


Under the Federal ESA, plants are protected if Federal lands, funds or permits are involved in the action.

For example, if you are a landowner enrolled in the Forest Stewardship Program, Federal funds are used to provide you with financial and technical assistance for management of your property. Therefore, you need to comply with the protection given to plants under the Federal ESA. This means that there is protection from malicious destruction of a threatened or endangered plant on your property.

In addition, individual states may have protection for plants. In many states, this protection of a listed plant from collection without permission from the landowner. This protection is usually afforded through a clause in the State Endangered Species Act. For more detailed information, contact your Natural Heritage Program Coordinator or your State wildlife agency. (See "Where to Go for Assistance" lists.)

I am a landowner enrolled in the Forest Stewardship Program and a threatened or endangered species is discovered on my property, will there be more regulation than if I were not enrolled in the program?
No. The Forest Stewardship Program is voluntary and is a nonregulatory means to provide landowners with technical and financial assistance to make their stewardship vision for their land a reality. Regardless of whether property is in the Forest Stewardship Program or not, the USDA Forest Service (and other Federal agencies) are responsible under the Federal ESA to ensure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out by the agency is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any threatened or endangered species. As a result, the resource professional that assists you in preparing your management plan should consider and evaluate (possibly with the help of State wildlife agencies or Natural Heritage Programs) the presence of threatened and endangered species on your property. A description of the situation should be included in the management plan. If a threatened or endangered species lives on your property and management could have an impact on the species, the U.S. Forest Service is required to consult the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Then, within the law, appropriate management recommendations can be made. As previously mentioned, management is typically compatible with the existence of a T&E species. This can also be a great opportunity to help a T&E species!
Fact or Fallacy?
We need your help! - Bald eagle nestling photo
Bald eagle nestling.
Photography by Michael Amaral, USFWS.
Many land management projects have been stopped because of a threatened or endangered species.
Fallacy: Of more than 100,000 Federally funded or authorized projects with endangered species issues in the last fifteen years, only thirty-four projects were stopped because of major impacts to the species.

All threatened and endangered species require undisturbed habitat and a "leave it alone and keep out policy" to ensure survival.

Fallacy: Two examples:
{short description of image} The small whorled pagonia is a Federally threatened plant species and one of the rarest wild orchids in eastern North America. It occurs primarily in areas with signs of human activity: former pasture land and area with timber harvest histories.
{short description of image} The Karner blue is a rare butterfly that is found in open pine barrens and oak savanna where populations of wild lupine exist. Historically, wildfire maintained these ecosystems. More recently, habitat of the Karner blue butterfly has been lost, in part, because of the suppression of wildfire. Resource professionals are now considering controlled burns and mechanical removal of shrubs and trees as means of saving the butterfly.
There are animal and plants, however; that do not tolerate disturbance well. For example, some plants do not tolerate open conditions (i.e., from forest canopy removal) well. Alterations of natural habitats may be detrimental to these populations. In addition, there are a number of endangered and threatened plants for which the effects management or disturbance are not known. Many landowners allow research to take place on their property so that we all can learn more about the effects of management on T&E species.
It is pointless to attempt to save threatened and endangered species because efforts to date have not been successful.
Fallacy. There are a number of success stories, due in large part to protection afforded by the Endangered Species Act and the dedicated people who work with the T&E species. Examples of such species are the peregrine falcon, bald eagle, American alligator, brown pelican and small whorled pogonia.
On the other hand, many species are on the waiting list for protection, and some have become extinct while waiting to be listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act. The Act does not work miracles, but it also does not cause the economic disaster that some claim it does. A number of species would have been extinct today if they had not received protection under the Act. In addition, many project efforts to list and protect species are understaffed.

It is best to keep information regarding the location of species out of the hands of the private landowner.

Fallacy. With 94 percent of the forest land in the Northeast and Midwest in private ownership, many private landowners already play an important role in the management of threatened and endangered species. The USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, State wildlife agencies, and State Natural Heritage Programs have a great desire to work with landowners who want to conserve species on their property.

Learn more about threatened and endangered species in your state as well as the Federally listed species. Share the information with family, friends, coworkers, and others.

Report the presence of a threatened or endangered species to your local U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service office, State wildlife agency or Natural Heritage Program office (see "Where to go for Assistance" lists). Many of these program have receive valuable information from landowners.

Write to your Congressional representatives. Let them know that endangered species protection and healthy forests are important for all.

Get involved in land management or backyard programs offered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, or state agencies that offer financial or technical assistance.

Contact your State T&E species and Natural Heritage Program Coordinators to find out if you have a threatened or endangered species on your property.
Healthy Ecosystems Are Beneficial to All
Service biologists banding an eagle chick
Service biologists banding an eagle
chick Photo provided
by Michael Amaral
Protecting an ecosystem with several threatened or endangered species (rather than focusing on a single species) can prevent the decline of other species in that community. Some species, such as those plants used for medicines, directly benefit people. Species yet undiscovered, or known species with undiscovered benefit, inhabit the same communities as those with recognized benefit. But perhaps the most compelling reason for the conservation of threatened and endangered species is that we have the ability to make a difference in the lives of our fellow passengers on this earth.

Bald eagle in nest with chicks
Bald eagle in nest with chicks. Photo by USFWS.
{short description of image} Where to Go for Assistance - State Program Coordinators
{short description of image} Fedaerl Threatened and Endangered Species
{short description of image} Credits and References