whitebark pine
Whitebark pine is a keystone species in the high-elevation regions of the Northern Rockies and Cascades and is a candidate species under the U.S Endangered Species Act.

EARLIER THIS YEAR, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed the removal of the Kirtland’s warbler from the endangered species list due to its remarkable recovery.

For nearly 30 years, American Forests has been restoring the Michigan jack pine forests the Kirtland’s warbler depends on for habitat. We’ve planted more than 4.6 million young jack pines across 4,200 acres in Michigan. It is through this dedication, and our partnership with Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources, along with other dedicated conservationists, that this rare bird’s population has recovered

to this point. And it is because of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that we can celebrate this victory. Of course, this proposed delisting does not mean our work stops. American Forests is committed to continue our jack pine restoration to ensure the Kirtland’s warbler continues to thrive.

However, now the ESA that was instrumental in protecting Kirtland’s warbler is also at risk. Congress has introduced a “modernization package” made up of nine bills that would alter the ESA and make it more difficult to add species to the endangered species list, make it easier to delist species, and remove the responsibility for conservation practices from involved parties. While critics of the ESA focus on the statistic that 3 percent of species have been delisted, they ignore the fact that more than 99 percent of the species covered by the Act are saved from extinction — a clear indication of the effectiveness of the ESA. The Act protects those species by protecting their habitats and keeping them listed as endangered until their population is stable.

The fate of endangered wildlife and plant species is an issue that deserves the attention provided by the ESA as it currently stands. Weakening the ESA will only hurt our ability to protect endangered species. Help us voice our opposition to the ESA reformation package by letting Congress know that we expect them to follow through on the commitment made by the original ESA to protect our endangered species! Visit our Action Center at americanforests.org/TakeAction and let your Congressional members know you want a strong, effective Endangered Species Act.

Rebecca Turner writes from Washington, D.C., and is American Forests’ vice president and chief of staff, general counsel.