Louisiana Black Bear Credit: LDWF
Thanks to a highly successful public-private partnership spanning more than two decades, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced today that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to remove the Louisiana black bear – the inspiration for the “Teddy Bear” – from the list of threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
“The Louisiana black bear symbolizes how the Endangered Species Act can be a remarkably effective tool to protect and recover threatened and endangered species when we work in close partnership with states and other stakeholders,” Jewell said. “Across Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, we have worked together with our partners to protect and restore habitat, reintroduce populations and reduce the threats to the bear. Today’s recovery of the bear is yet another success story of the Endangered Species Act.”
The Endangered Species Act has been a critical safety net for imperiled plants and wildlife for more than four decades, preventing more than 99 percent of the species listed from going extinct. In addition, the Act has helped to move many species from the brink of extinction to the path to recovery, including the American alligator, Florida panther, bald eagle, brown pelican and gray whale. The Obama Administration has removed from the endangered species list due to recovery more species than any prior administration.
“Today, after more than 20 years of collaborative research and recovery efforts, I’m proud to finally announce the recovery of the Louisiana black bear,” said Governor Jindal. “With today’s announcement, we will finally start the process of removing the Louisiana black bear from the United States Threatened and Endangered Species List. This great announcement highlights the vital steps we’ve taken to protect such an iconic symbol of our great state, and I’m proud of the work we’ve done together to get here.”
The Louisiana black bear is a subspecies of black bear unique to Louisiana, western Mississippi and eastern Texas. In 1902, it became part of American culture when, during a hunting trip near Onward, Mississippi, President Theodore Roosevelt spared one from his trophy collection. An editorial cartoon in The Washington Post relayed the story, sparking an idea from a Brooklyn candy store owner to create the “Teddy Bear.”
When the Louisiana black bear was listed under the ESA in 1992 due to habitat loss, reduced quality of remaining habitat and human-related mortality, the three known remaining breeding subpopulations were confined to the bottomland hardwood forests of Louisiana in the Tensas and Upper and Lower Atchafalaya River basins. Today, those subpopulations have all increased in number and have stable to increasing growth rates. Additional breeding subpopulations are forming in Louisiana and Mississippi, providing a healthy long-term outlook for the species.
For more than 20 years, the Service has partnered with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Natural Resources Conservation Service, University of Tennessee, private landowners and others to address the threat of habitat loss in the bear’s range. This includes researching the status of the existing populations, establishing additional subpopulations, and protecting or restoring more than 750,000 acres of habitat. A large proportion of habitat supporting and connecting breeding subpopulations has been protected and restored voluntarily through private landowner restoration efforts.
“This announcement demonstrates once again that the protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act make a difference, giving the Service and its partners time to recover imperiled species,” said Service Deputy Director Steve Guertin, who announced the proposed delisting at an event hosted by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal in Baton Rouge. “An America without the Louisiana black bear would be an America that has deprived its children of a key piece of their wildlife heritage.”
“The department has an established track record of successfully recovering species, including the American alligator, the Brown pelican and the Bald eagle,” said Robert Barham, Secretary, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “We look forward to adding the Louisiana black bear to that distinguished list.”
“This event marks a successful effort mounted by a collection of conservation partners including the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Black Bear Conservation Coalition, to list a few,” said Theodore Roosevelt IV. “It is clear to me that when we work cooperatively, we can achieve great things. It is my sincere hope that we can replicate this type of collaboration in other parts of the country so that our nation’s wildlife resources can flourish. I particularly want to salute the local landowners who made changes in their land management practices to provide the necessary habitat for black bears.”
Long-term habitat protection is defined as having sufficient assurances that degradation is not likely to occur for at least 100 years. These assurances rest heavily on voluntary conservation agreements with private landowners and public conservation agencies in the Tensas and Atchafalaya River basins. The ESA stipulates delisted species require monitoring for a minimum of five years. The post-delisting monitoring plan unveiled by the Service will ensure the population continues to thrive into the future under state management.
Through the public comment period, which ends on July 20, 2015, the Service is seeking additional biological data and information regarding threats to the Louisiana black bear. The agency is seeking information on the extent of federal and state protection and management provided to the bear as a delisted species, and current or planned activities that may impact or benefit the bear.
The Service will hold public hearings on the proposed rule, and the public is encouraged to submit comments through http://www.regulations.gov. For more information about the proposed delisting of the Louisiana black bear, please visit the Service’s websites at http://www.fws.gov/lafayette or http://www.fws.gov/southeast/.