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Marking Endangered Species Day, and Law That Makes it Possible

The Northwest's endangered Southern Resident orcas rely on Chinook salmon, whose population also is dwindling. (John Durban/NOAA Fisheries)
The Northwest's endangered Southern Resident orcas rely on Chinook salmon, whose population also is dwindling. (John Durban/NOAA Fisheries)
May 15, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. - Organizations are putting a spotlight on species "on the brink" today, for Endangered Species Day.

The celebration was created by Congress in 2006. Jeanne Dodds, creative engagement director with the Endangered Species Coalition, says the Endangered Species Act plays an important role in protecting plants, animals and insects.

She says the law has been 99% effective at protecting species that are listed, including two success stories in Oregon: the brown pelican and bald eagle. But she notes that the law has been chronically underfunded.

"Increasing funding for the act and providing the reinforcement that it needs,"says Dodds, "in order for actions to be taken at the state and federal level to support species, is really the biggest way to ensure that the act continues to remain effective."

Dodds says it's also important to support threatened and endangered species covered by the law with proactive measures, like habitat restoration and protective wildlife corridors.

Dodds says in Oregon, big threats to species include land use changes that result in habitat loss, which can upset a delicate balance. For instance, two endangered butterfly species listed in Oregon use two plants as hosts that also are endangered.

She says that's the case for the 73 remaining Southern Resident orcas and Chinook salmon as well.

"The species are often closely connected,"says Dodds. "When one becomes threatened and endangered, then the other is impacted as well. And I see that a lot across the state of Oregon and, of course, elsewhere in the U.S."

Because of COVID-19, most Endangered Species Day celebrations are virtual this year. They include online film screenings and a digital parade.

Dodds says her group also is hosting a species identification challenge on Saturday to encourage people to get out into their own backyards.

"The idea there is really that once you have a relationship with your local environment and develop that, then it can support thinking bigger-picture about other species around you,"says Dodds.

In Oregon, folks can visit murals of endangered species in Portland and Creswell to mark Endangered Species Day.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR