Endangered species list thankfully grows smaller

Steve PollickThe recent completion of a five-year review of endangered species in Ohio and subsequent downlisting of several keys species by the Ohio Division of Wildlife mostly is a positive sign when it comes to the cause of conservation.

Rather than being obstructions to so-called “progress,” endangered species need to be regarded as nature’s proverbial canaries in the coal mine, critical indicators of the ability of our land, air, and water to sustain life – ours and all the living things around us. It is inarguable that diversity in nature means stability; when we lessen diversity — kill off species in our greed and carelessness — we submit ourselves to death by a thousand cuts. If our world is suited only for carp and cockroaches, it may not be suited for us, either.

So, this time around it is good to know that the bobcat, Lake Erie watersnake, trumpeter swan, blue sucker, and the mountain madtom (one of those nondescript “minnows”) all are stand in sufficient stead to be downlisted from endangered to threatened. At the same time the yellow-bellied sapsucker was downlisted from endangered to species of concern.

Several birds —  dark-eyed junco, yellow-crowned night-heron, hermit thrush and least flycatcher – were downlisted from threatened to “special interest.” Better still, the high-profile osprey and bald eagle were taken off the threatened list altogether and no longer will receive a designation, along with two more “minnows,” the bluebreast darter and rosyside dace. State wildlife authorities said that all these species have experienced tremendous range expansion because of improved habitat or water quality.

Other avian species that will no longer receive a designation are the blue grosbeak, little blue heron, American widgeon, as will freshwater mussels, the colorfully named rock pocketbook, flat floater and fat pocketbook.

In short we must be doing something right, somewhere, enough to help some fellow travelers along the way.

But on the downside, some of Ohio’s ecological niches have narrowed and threaten some of the coal mine’s canaries. The upland sandpiper, Iowa darter, and gilt darter were added to Ohio’s endangered species list and the eastern harvest mouse was added to the threatened list.

Several new species of concern include smoky shrew, deer mouse, prairie vole, woodland vole, southern bog lemming, silver-haired bat, red bat and hoary bat. The evening bat, American black duck, and variegated orange moth now also are listed as a species of special interest.

The extinction list expands a mite to include Kramer’s cave beetle and the tubercled blossom mussel, which have not been found anywhere in more than 100 years. Gone from Ohio are the spoonhead sculpin, blackchin shiner, blacknose shiner and Mississippi silvery minnow, which have not been found in the state for 25 years. One mammal, the Southern red-backed vole, has been listed as extirpated.

Some of these species mean more to us commoners than others, but all are important pieces of nature’s puzzle. We neglect or destroy even little pieces at our peril.

Categories: Ohio – Steve Pollick

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