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67 NC Species under review for Endangered List

By Michelle Bliss

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/whqr/local-whqr-988960.mp3

Wilmington, NC – Two environmental groups have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to evaluate hundreds of species to determine if they're threatened or endangered. WHQR's Michelle Bliss reports that of the 374 species under review, 67 can be found in North Carolina.

Most of the species are aquatic or wetland-dependent fish, amphibians, and plants.

Pete Benjamin supervises the U.S. Fish and Wildlife field office in Raleigh. He says that even these rare, virtually unheard of, organisms play vital roles and may need protection.

"I think it was Edison that said that the first step to tinkering intelligently is saving all the parts. Ecosystems are very complex, so to ensure that we're sustaining a healthy environment for our own needs, for human needs, it's important to conserve all the components."

Benjamin says that scientists are just beginning to understand how some of the organisms function within an ecosystem.

"We know that freshwater mussels play an important role in filtering water and promoting water quality. They're also excellent indicators of water quality."

Benjamin says the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker is an example of how designating a species as threatened or endangered can put a recovery plan in motion. The bird hasn't fully recovered, but his team has stabilized the population, and near Fort Bragg, the bird has reached its local recovery target ahead of schedule.

Once a species is added to the Endangered List, a recovery plan is set up to identify any habitat needs that could be fulfilled to avoid extinction.

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? If so, we'd like to hear from you. Please email the WHQR News Team.