Five species of plants and animals were taken off the endangered species list following conservation efforts between the Department of Defense and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the Navy-owned San Clemente Island off the coast of California, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday.
Four plants, the San Clemente Island paintbrush, lotus, larkspur and bush-mallow, and one bird, the San Clemente Bell’s sparrow, no longer require protection under the Endangered Species Act, Pentagon officials noted.
“The Navy is proud to have shared more than 40 years of collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to improve the habitat and recover these species,” Karnig Ohannessian, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for Environment and Mission Readiness, said in a statement. “The Navy remains committed to our conservation efforts on San Clemente Island, and to be good stewards of the natural resources we manage as part of our national security mission.”
San Clemente Island is the primary training area for the Navy Pacific Fleet and Sea, Air and Land Forces, according to the statement. Before the Navy acquired the island in the 1930s, it had been decimated by non-native herbivores, specifically feral goats, that grazed over the habitat. When conservation efforts began, the Navy put an emphasis on removing goats from that island, which allowed the habitat to recover.
By 1991, the island was goat-free.
The San Clemente Bell’s Sparrow, once nearly extinct, reported only 34 adult birds in 1984. As of 2018, the population now ranges between more than 4,000 to nearly 8,000 birds, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
San Clemente is one of eight islands that comprise the Channel Islands off the coast of southern California. Besides the five species removed from the list this week, other species have been aided by joint clean-up efforts. The island night lizard and island fox, along with plants like the Santa Cruz Island dudleya and island bedstraw, have recovered across the islands, according to the statement.
Bald eagles and peregrine falcon populations have also begun breeding on the island.
The announcement comes as the Endangered Species Act is set to turn 50 years old. Since President Richard Nixon signed the ESA into law in 1973, more than 100 species of plants and animals have had their conservation status changed from “endangered” to the less severe “threatened.”
The Endangered Species Act has been credited with saving 99% of listed species from extinction, according to the statement.
Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.