A Conservation Victory: The Successful Delisting Of Two Endangered Species

Last year a significant conservation milestone was achieved with the removal of two unique animal species from the endangered species list. These species, the San Clemente Sparrow and the Okaloosa Darter, were listed as endangered since the 70s and successfully saved from the brink of extinction after decades-long conservation efforts. 


The San Clemente Sparrow

The San Clemente Sparrow is a small non-migratory bird found only in the San Clemente Islands off the coast of southern California. The Sparrow was listed as an endangered species in 1977 after biologists reported extremely low numbers of this unique bird. Biologists studying the fauna of the island in the early 1980s reported sighting only as little as 34 individuals, suggesting that the population was likely on the verge of extinction. 

Thankfully, the cause of these low numbers was clear to biologists. Goats left behind by ranchers in the beginning of the 20th century had become feral and were chomping down the native vegetation at devastating rates. This was not only devastating for a number of native plant species, but also for the San Clemente Sparrow who relies on shrubby vegetation for nesting, feeding, and protection from predators. The U.S. Navy, who manages federal lands on the island, played a significant role in the conservation of the sparrow by removing the goats and helping with the restoration of native vegetation. US Fish and Wildlife, along with other local conservation groups, also played an important role to support the conservation. Currently, population sizes fluctuate between 4000 and 7600 adults depending on seasonal shifts which effect food availability on the island.

Bell's Sparrow in Sonoma County, California. Photo by David A. Hofmann

The Okaloosa Darter

The second protagonist of todays story is a small fish, only two inches in length, known as the Okaloosa Darter. It is endemic to northern Florida and only known from a handful of streams located within the Eglin Air Force Base The Okaloosa Darter faced significant threats to its survival from habitat destruction, invasive species, and other human-related factors. One of the main threats was erosion and sedimentation that originated from construction projects on the Air Force Base. Estimates done in the early 70s when the species was listed suggested populations were likely well below 1500 individuals. 

To protect this endangered fish, numerous conservation efforts were conducted by the US Air Force, US Fish and Wildlife, and other conservation groups. This included an erosion control plan, the elimination of fish passage barriers, and habitat restoration of the creeks where a majority of the darters resided. These efforts have resulted in the rebounding of Okaloosa Darter populations, which are now estimated to be well above 500,000 individuals. 



The removal of the San Clemente Sparrow and the Okaloosa Darter from the endangered species list showcases the positive outcomes of dedicated conservation efforts. These stories bring hope to all conservationists and exhibit the importance of environmental regulations like the Endangered Species Act. While there´s no doubt many species will continue finding themselves on the endangered species list in the coming years, we can only hope that others will be delisted thanks to efforts like those made for the San Clemente Sparrow and the Okaloosa Darter.