Condors to return to the Pacific Northwest
The long-awaited reintroduction of California Condors to the Pacific Northwest, which we first reported on in 2017, is slated for fall or spring 2022.
On March 23, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the Yurok Tribe announced a final settlement that will facilitate the creation of a new condor release facility for condor reintroduction into the Yurok Ancestral Territory and Redwood National Park is said to be located in the northern portion of the species’ historic range. This facility is operated by the Northern California Condor Restoration Program, a partnership between Redwood National Park and the tribe.
Typically, the condors associated with this program are designated as a non-essential experimental population under the Endangered Species Act. This status offers the necessary flexibility in managing the reintroduced population, reduces the regulatory impact of reintroducing a nationwide listed species, and facilitates cooperative conservation.
“The California Condor is a shining example of how a species can be endangered through partnership,” said Paul Souza, California-Great Basin regional director for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. “I would like to thank the Yurok Tribe, the National Park Service, our government partners, and others who have been involved in this project. Together we can help regain and preserve this great species for future generations. “
With a wingspan of nearly 10 feet, the California Condor is the largest soaring land bird in North America. These massive vultures are essential members of their ecosystem and play an important role in the spiritual and cultural beliefs of the Yurok tribe, as well as many other tribes in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.
For the past 12 years, the Yurok tribe has led this reintroduction effort and has done a tremendous amount of legwork in preparation for the return of the condors to the Pacific Northwest. Comprehensive environmental impact assessments, pollutant analyzes and public relations were just a few of the tasks required. The tribe completed this endeavor because the condor is an irreplaceable part of a sacred cultural landscape. Until the condor release facility is completed, the condors are expected to be released in autumn 2021 or spring 2022.
“For the past 20 years the Yurok Tribe has been actively involved in restoring the rivers, forests and prairies in our ancestral lands,” said Joseph L. James, chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “The reintroduction of the condor is part of an effort to reconstruct the various environmental conditions that once prevailed in our region. We are very proud of the fact that our future generations will not know a world without prey. We are excited to partner with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Redwood National Park in the final stages of the project and beyond. ”
California Condors prehistorically ranged from California to Florida and today from western Canada to northern Mexico. In the mid-20th century, condor populations fell dramatically due to poaching and poisoning. In 1967 the California Condor was classified as endangered. In 1982 only 23 condors survived worldwide. By 1987, all remaining wild condors were included in a captive breeding program. So began an intensive restoration program to save the species from extinction.
Due to exemplary conservation partnerships and intensive breeding and reintroduction efforts in captivity, there are now over 300 wild California condors in California, Arizona, Utah, and Baja California. However, the bird is still classified as Endangered, and lead poisoning (mainly caused by ingestion of lead shot or fragments of lead bullets while feeding carcasses) is classified as one of the main threats to the species.
“The return of condors to the skies over Redwood National and State Parks is a critical step in restoring this majestic landscape,” said Steve Mietz, superintendent of Redwood National and State Parks. “Working with our friends and partners, the Yurok Tribe, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, we will continue the unprecedented track record of restoring condors that enables all Americans to visit the tallest trees in the world, including one of the largest birds in the world watch overhead. “
The last rule exempts most accidental condors within the non-essential experimental population, provided the ingestion is unintentional and not the result of negligent behavior. Although the rule excludes most accidental shots, certain activities are prohibited within 200 meters of an occupied nest.
These include changing the habitat (e.g. removing trees, erecting structures, changing the nest structure or perches near the nest) and significant visual or noise disturbances (e.g. felling trees, chainsaws, helicopter flyovers, concrete cutters, Fireworks or explosives). There are two exceptions: Emergency fuel handling measures by federal, state, tribal, or local government agencies to reduce the risk of catastrophic forest fires and responses to forest fires or other emergencies.
Thank you United States Fish and Wildlife Service for providing this news.
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