U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
|Fish, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation|
The approach for the recovery of listed species is generally detailed in recovery plans, completed for nearly 85 percent of listed species. These plans are developed under the leadership of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service. The BLM is typically a stakeholder in developing the recovery plans for species that depend on habitat managed by the agency. As of 2010, the BLM is participating in development of more than 45 recovery or conservation plans for listed species.
In implementing recovery plans, the BLM works with partners such as state fish and game agencies, other federal agencies and non-governmental agencies. Partners may provide expertise, labor, or funds to help recover a species. Recovery actions are wide-ranging in cost and scope, from habitat restoration to research to reestablishment of experimental populations.
Case Study: Recovery Plan Implementation
Endangered Falcons Soar Over Public Lands in New Mexico
The endangered northern aplomado falcon (Falco femoralis septentrionalis ) is benefiting from a federal program to reintroduce the species into areas it once occupied in New Mexico. The BLM's Las Cruces District has been actively participating in this and other recovery activities, coordinating the special status species program with State and other Federal agencies, private organizations, and BLM constituents.
The northern aplomado falcon was Federally listed as endangered in 1986 and designated a New Mexico state endangered species in 1990. The falcon is native to open country in Mexico, southern Texas, and the Chihuahuan Desert grasslands in New Mexico and Arizona. Northern aplomado falcons were once considered fairly common throughout their U.S. range. However, populations began to decline after the 1930’s. After the species was listed in 1986, conservation and recovery efforts for the species increased.
The Recovery Plan for the falcon, completed in 1990, lists the reestablishment of falcons in the United States and Mexico as one of six major management objectives to provide for the eventual de-listing of the species. The FWS has been working with The Peregrine Fund, Turner Endangered Species Fund, State Government agencies, BLM, Department of Defense, local citizens, and others to protect habitat for the falcon and to reestablish populations in suitable habitat.
In June, 2006 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) designated the northern aplomado falcon a non-essential experimental population under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act. This designation allows for experimental populations to be introduced into their historical range, taking into account local concerns so that current and future land uses and activities need not be restricted. The BLM participated with the FWS in both the development of the 10(j) ruling and the environmental assessment for reestablishment of falcons within the area.
The BLM Las Cruces District manages 5.5 million acres in southwestern New Mexico, including Chihuahuan Desert grassland habitats that are within the historic northern range of the aplomado falcon. The last recorded successful nesting attempt by the aplomado falcon in New Mexico was in 2002 on BLM lands south of Deming, New Mexico. Subsequent monitoring has revealed no further nesting activity. Prior to 2002, the last recorded aplomado falcon nest site in New Mexico was in 1952, in the same area south of Deming, New Mexico.
Since the 1990’s, The Peregrine Fund has released over 1,500 captive raised aplomado falcons at six locations in West Texas. The first release of falcons under the 10(j) designation in New Mexico occurred in 2006 on the privately-owned Armendaris Ranch in south central New Mexico in cooperation with the Turner Endangered Species Fund. Since 2006, approximately 130 falcons have been released at the Ranch site and a nearby site on lands administered by the New Mexico State Land Office, White Sands Missile Range, and BLM.
As a result of these releases, at least four new falcon pairs have been documented. The New Mexico BLM has provided financial support through a Grant to The Peregrine Fund to facilitate the release of falcons on public lands.
In early 2009 local support for a falcon release near Deming, NM was secured through a cooperative effort by the Peregrine Fund, BLM, and the FWS. Given the extent of historic habitat within a mixed ownership of private, public and state lands, all parties felt it was important to ensure community support for such a release. The objective was to have a release site located on public and/or state lands with the support of the rancher who owned the adjacent private lands and held the BLM and State Land Office grazing permits or leases.
Two ranching families agreed to participate in the release effort. Given the various points of view expressed by their neighbors, the decision to participate was difficult. However, their decision demonstrated a magnificent willingness to work together as a community toward the common resource goal to de-list the aplomado falcon. Their decision to participate in this recovery effort was based on the premise that de-listing the species would ultimately benefit those who may be critical of their decision to participate.
The BLM authorized two release sites on public lands in 2009. The Pergrine Fund released 45 aplomado falcons in Texas and 71 in New Mexico that year. Approximately 60 of these were released at the two new sites in southern New Mexico.
These falcon releases have provided an outstanding opportunity for public education and outreach. The initial release near Deming, NM in 2009 was attended by more than 50 individuals from the local community, most of whom were school aged children. The releases have also provided opportunities for wildlife student interns from New Mexico State University, hosted by the BLM Las Cruces District, to obtain valuable hands on experience in a raptor management program. Student interns have assisted biologists from The Peregrine Fund in building the two release sites and collecting daily observations of the falcons at the sites.
Grassland Restoration is Key
It is not enough to reintroduce a species to its historic range. The new area must contain habitat conditions to provide the species with adequate cover, feeding and nesting areas. The BLM in New Mexico is an active partner in Restore New Mexico , a landscape scale habitat restoration effort. Restore New Mexico projects are greatly increasing the habitat for the aplomado falcon. Since 2006, the Las Cruces District has treated more than 150,000 acres of creosote invaded grasslands, and has formed partnerships with a goal of restoring native grasslands on nearly 400,000 acres over the next 5-10 years. The goal is to reduce creosote densities and restore native vegetation diversity, thus improving watershed conditions and native wildlife species habitat over the landscape. Improved grassland conditions provide diverse nesting and foraging habitat for migratory songbirds which are the prey base for the falcons as well as improve and maintain habitat for other desert grassland species. Read more about Restore New Mexico here .