As we observe the 40th anniversary of the federal Endangered Species Act this month, it is affirming to look at the progress that's been made for rare wildlife in New Hampshire. Many of us can remember the "silent spring" that was the catalyst for this key federal legislation that provided protection for species facing possible extinction. By 1970, the pesticide DDT had devastated the nation's populations of osprey, bald eagles, peregrine falcons and other birds of prey. In response to this and other wildlife disasters, in 1973 Congress passed the Endangered Species Act.
New Hampshire passed a similar law in 1979, a time when no bald eagles, one peregrine falcon and just four ospreys nested here. Soon after, in 1980, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department announced the state's first list of threatened and endangered wildlife species. At that time, Fish and Game had no staff dedicated to protecting rare wildlife. That began to change in 1988, when the state's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program was established.
Now in its 25th year, the nongame program is part of the state Fish and Game Department's Wildlife Division. Over the years, the Nongame Program grew from a staff of one to a leader for statewide conservation efforts. It works with partners in the nonprofit and private sectors to protect threatened and endangered species in New Hampshire, and to keep common species common. This work is made possible with federal funding from state wildlife grants, expertise from conservation nonprofits, an annual financial matching grant from the state and financial support from private New Hampshire citizens.
We have a lot to celebrate, thanks to the nongame program. Success stories include:<br /><br />-- Karner blue butterflies, our official state butterfly, were once gone from the state, but now breed in the wild here, thanks to intensive captive rearing and habitat restoration.
-- American pine marten are gaining ground in the Great North Woods. <br /><br />-- Some 35 pairs of bald eagles breed in New Hampshire, and this iconic bird of prey has been removed from the federal endangered species list.
-- Threatened and endangered common, Arctic and roseate terns breed and raise their young at the Isles of Shoals. This historic tern breeding site, once abandoned, is now the largest tern colony in the Gulf of Maine, with more than 2,500 nesting pairs!
The success stories of the past 25 years give us hope for the future, as does a vitally important tool, developed in collaboration with conservation nonprofits and business partners: New Hampshire's Wildlife Action Plan. The plan provides local governments, land trusts, state agencies and businesses with a road map for restoring, protecting and maintaining critical habitats that are home to populations of the state's species of conservation and management concern. More than 2,000 people from 140 New Hampshire towns have already attended wildlife action plan workshops, learning to identify and protect key habitats that benefit the greatest diversity of wildlife.
Our successes in the past 25 years have shown that, if we put our minds to it, we can take a wild species near extinction and bring it back. But that's an expensive process, and one of the goals of the nongame program is to keep wildlife off the endangered species list. The program is doing that well, thanks to a mix of private and public funding. The work that's being done to help rare species and their habitats helps all wildlife and improves the quality of the air and water we all need. The challenges of the next 25 years are likely to be greater still and will require a unified effort from all of us. Find out how you can help at wildnh.com/nongame.
Glenn Normandeau is executive director of N.H. Fish and Game.