40th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA)

To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, members of the William Smith Livingston Society gathered at Rocky Mountain National Park where Ms. Diane Harpold presented a very educational program.  The purpose of the ESA is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.  It is administered by the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS, Secretary Ken Salazar of Colorado) and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).  Under the ESA, species may be listed as either endangered or threatened.  “Endangered” means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.  “Threatened” means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.  As of September 2012, there are approximately 1,990 total species listed under the ESA.  The most interesting part of the program was learning about the specific species affected here in Colorado.  For example, the Greenback Cutthroat Trout was presumed to be extinct in 1937.  Numerous wild greenback cutthroat populations were discovered starting in the late 1950s.  Only five naturally occurring pure populations are known to have survived to recent times.  Population has increased in recent decades due to successful reintroduction efforts.  21 out of 55 populations were considered to be stable and more than half of these were within Rocky Mountain National Park.  The greenback was named Colorado’s state fish in 1994.  Other Colorado species listed under the ESA include the Canada Lynx which was reintroduced in 2000 and the Boreal Toad.  For a complete list of Colorado’s species of concern, please visit:                



Examples of two species that have made great comebacks are the Bald Eagle and Elk.  Eagle populations continue to increase and the breeding population has doubled every 6-7 years since the late 1970s.  Elk were hunted extensively in the Estes Valley and much of the meat was sent to market in Denver.  By 1890 very few remained.  In 1913 and 1914, 49 elk from Yellowstone were transplanted into the area what was to become Rocky Mountain Nation Park.  Reducing predators such as the grizzly bear and gray wolf hastened the elk’s recovery.    Recently, over-population has become a concern.  The three last years, culling was necessary to thin the herd.  131 elk were removed.  The goal is to maintain the population of 600 to 800 elk.


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