GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There are some positives and negatives to take out of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ latest announcement.
After several discussions with local universities, conservation organizations and the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, the DNR has recommended 36 different plants and animals be removed from the state’s endangered species list. However, 58 other species were added to the list.
Currently, 66 different animal species are listed as endangered and 66 are considered threatened in Michigan. The previous edition of the list included 60 species each considered endangered and threatened.
One of the biggest conservation triumphs? The trumpeter swan.
The bird was once on the brink of extinction thanks to overhunting. But conservation efforts over the last several decades have brought the trumpeter swan population back from the brink.
Part of those efforts, according to Michigan Radio, started in the 1980s at the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary in Augusta. Park officials purchased several trumpeter swan eggs from Alaska and worked to restart the population there. Those efforts were one small part of helping the trumpeter swan population recover. As of 2015, it was estimated over 3,000.
DNR endangered species specialist Jennifer Kleitch called it a major success.
“When people come together to collaborate on conservation, we can recover rare species,” Kleitch said in a statement. “Trumpeter swans were just removed from Michigan’s threatened and endangered species list. Their populations have grown as a result of significant conservation by many partners over the decades.”
While the trumpeter swan is no longer considered threatened in Michigan, it is still federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and cannot be legally hunted.
Other species, including the northern long-eared bat and the little brown bat, have moved up on the list, going from a species of special concern to “threatened.”
Bats across the country, and in Michigan in particular, have been hit hard by white-nose syndrome. It’s a disease caused by a fungus that is believed to cause bats to exert too much energy during hibernation and run out of fat reserves before spring.
Like many animals, bats play an important role in our ecosystems, but they play an outsized role in our economy, as well.
“In the U.S., most of our bats are insectivorous, and insectivorous bats are important consumers of nocturnal insect pests, including agricultural insects,” Winifred Frick, the chief scientist for Bat Conservation International, told News 8. “There are studies that show the economic value that bats offer in the United States to the agricultural industry is in the billions every year. They help improve crop yields and reduce the amount of pesticides that farmers put on.”
The rusty-patched bumble bee and the American bumble bee have moved from special concern to endangered. Kleitch says it’s important to highlight the plight of these specific species not only for their benefit but for how that threat can impact humans in the long run.
“Many threatened and endangered species rely on high-quality natural areas that benefit all of us by providing clean water, clean air and places for us to enjoy nature,” Kleitch said. “When species are struggling, it can indicate declines in the functioning of those natural areas, which in turn can impact our quality of life.”
Kleitch hopes the updated list sparks more interest in these endangered species and encourages people to take small steps to help.
“I encourage everyone to take an interest in rare plants and animals. They are fascinating,” she said. “Learn more and support conservation efforts. Whether it be planting a native flower garden for pollinators or donating to a local land conservancy, we can all play a part.”