25th anniversary for Endangered Species Act | TahoeDailyTribune.com

25th anniversary for Endangered Species Act

The 25th anniversary of the signing of the Endangered Species Act is a reminder that Lake Tahoe is home to endangered and rare species of animal and plant life.

“If we don’t take care of our wildlife, it won’t be around in the future,” said Cheryl Millham, executive director of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care. “People should be aware that we have endangered species in the basin. They should be aware of the wildlife.”

According to Darlene McGriff, zoologist for the California Department of Fish and Game Natural Division Database, Tahoe creatures listed on the federal endangered species list include the bald eagle, the Lahontan cutthroat trout and a plant called the Truckee barberry.

However, in addition to the 1,177 species on the federal listing, agencies ranging from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Game have other lists outlining species sensitive to extinction in certain areas and other life forms not on the list.

“A lot of state agencies develop their own requirements in conjunction with the federal list,” said Pat Shanley, forest biologist for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. “It makes a more local picture of things.”

Although many people may not realize it, Millham said, Lake Tahoe mountain peaks are the homes for a few peregrine falcons, a species on the federal list. The basin also has goshawks, another rare bird, and at least two northern bard owls live in the Tahoe area.

Several plants are rare in the Lake Tahoe Basin, and not on the federal listing, including the Tahoe yellow cress, a plant found nowhere else in the world but Lake Tahoe.

According to McGriff, Lake Tahoe water also is the home to a rare insect called the Tahoe benthic fly, which – although not on the federal endangered list – is in danger. It lives in deep, clear water, and as the lake’s clarity decreases, the species becomes more threatened.

Other Sierra Nevada animals considered rare by Fish and Game include California big horn sheep, Sierra Nevada red fox, willow flycatcher, great gray owl and the wolverine, which Millham said have been spotted in the basin.

Although the federal list does not recognize a lot of species, Shanley said it is still very important. The Endangered Species Act – which was signed Dec. 28, 1973 – had a significant impact on state agencies implementation of their plant and wildlife inventories.

“There are probably some things within the Endangered Species Act that have room for improvement, but now it’s proven itself to be a very productive tool,” Shanley said.

Millham agrees.

“The act is really important to the animals on the list because it’s the only way we’ll get them back,” she said.

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