(CNSNews.com) – The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced on Friday that one on the animals included on the first list of endangered species nearly a half century ago is no longer at risk of extinction.
The Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel will be officially removed from the list of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in December.
“The fox squirrel’s return to this area, rich with farmland and forest, marks not only a major win for conservationists and landowners, but also represents the latest in a string of success stories that demonstrate the Endangered Species Act’s effectiveness,” said DOI’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Michael Bean, who announced the news Friday at the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Milton, Del.
“The Act provides flexibility and incentives to build partnerships with states and private landowners to help recover species while supporting local economic activity. I applaud the states of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia, and the many partners who came together over the years to make this day possible,” Bean said.
The Delmarva fox squirrel has increased its range from four to 10 counties, and a population of up to 20,000 squirrels now covers 28 percent of the Delmarva Peninsula, primarily in Maryland, DOI announced.
Deputy Secretary Kara Coats of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control said the animal “is secure on the federal level,” but “rare in Delaware.”
“The federal delisting of the Delmarva fox squirrel as an endangered species is an exciting milestone in the progress of wildlife conservation in Delaware and throughout the region,” said Coats, who was also on hand for the announcement. “Although this unique species is secure on the federal level, it is still rare in Delaware.”
She said the Delmarva Fox Squirrel Conservation Plan provides “a path forward to further enhancing and restoring Delaware’s population of Delmarva fox squirrels as part of our state’s ecological diversity and landscape.”
The Endangered Species Act has prevented “the extinction of more than 99 percent of the species listed as threatened or endangered since 1973,” according to DOI. Also, “more than 30 species have been delisted – including, the bald eagle, American alligator, peregrine falcon and now Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel.”
Other species like the whooping crane and the California condor have been brought back from the brink of extinction.