State marks 40 years of Endangered Species Act

Rare wildlife species don’t always recover on their own. They need help from government as well as private groups and individuals concerned about their survival.

Perhaps no one effort has done more to help these species in Michigan than the state’s Endangered Species Act. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the legislation, which Gov. William Milliken signed into law in 1974 and took effect the same year.

Threatened and Endangered Species Week runs through Sunday, with opportunities to learn more about some of Michigan’s rarest natural inhabitants taking place at state parks and recreation areas.

For example, a program on the success story of the gray wolf entitled “Let Me Hear You Howl!” is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the campfire circle at Van Riper State Park in Champion. At 4 p.m. Friday at Van Riper’s playground, games and other activities will help people learn “What it Means to be Endangered.”

Another event is “The Jack Pine Resident” – about the endangered Kirtland’s warbler – set for 4 p.m. Thursday at the pavilion at Baraga State Park.

The Kirtland’s warbler, which nests mainly in jack pines of a certain height in a certain area in the northern Lower Peninsula, numbered only 432 singing males in 1951, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The 2012 singing male census totaled 2,090.

The population of the warbler, which is the rarest warbler in North America, has decreased dramatically through management and protection of more than 150,000 acres of jack pine habitat in the state.

Since the ESA was signed into law, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has partnered with many other conservation organizations and federal agencies that have helped listed species rebound.

However, there’s more work to be done. Currently, 60 threatened and 140 endangered animals live in the state. These animals are protected by law, but there are other methods of helping them that go beyond the ESA. People can plant native plant gardens, reduce their use of carbon dioxide and support the Nongame Fund through the purchase of a Loon License Plate or donations.

Peope’s day-to-day lives might not be impacted by saving species like the pygmy water lily or Siskiwit lake cisco, but it should be enough to know they’re still surviving, and that could be the greatest testament to the ESA.