Alaska Department of Fish and Game
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Federal Special Status Species
Special Status Information
The purpose of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is to conserve threatened and endangered species and their ecosystems. A species is considered threatened if it is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
Two federal agencies, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), are responsible for maintaining lists of species that meet the definition of threatened or endangered under the ESA. NMFS is responsible for maintaining the threatened species list for marine species and managing those species once they are listed. The USFWS is responsible for maintaining the threatened species list for terrestrial and freshwater species and managing those species once they are listed. NMFS and USFWS must determine if any species is threatened because of any of the following factors:
- The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat of range;
- Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;
- Disease or predation;
- The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms;
- Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.
All states contain species that are listed as threatened under the ESA. Some states are home to hundreds of threatened species. Alaska has relatively few species designed as threatened by NMFS and USFWS, with only 8 species currently listed as threatened. Many species that are rare, endangered, or have been extirpated elsewhere in the United States are thriving in Alaska. Our geographical isolation, relatively recent growth in population, limited development, small agricultural industry, conservative laws on the introduction and importation of exotic animals, and a little luck, all contribute to this favorable condition.
Alaska's primary advantage has been the state's remoteness and isolation. Alaska was still a sparsely populated Russian territory when many wildlife species elsewhere were hunted to extinction or lost due to industrial and agricultural development and a lack of knowledge about habitat requirements. Thanks to advances in science and increased awareness Alaskans have avoided many mistakes of the past.
The ESA requires that management agencies identify and protect critical habitat for all threatened species. Critical habitat consists of the land, water, and air necessary for the recovery of the threatened species, and the extent and location of critical habitat will be determined by the species’ needs of open space for individual and population growth, food, water, light (or other nutritional requirements), breeding sites, dispersal, seed germination, and lack of disturbance. Critical habitat has been designated for some, but not all, threatened species that occur in Alaska. Detailed information regarding species-specific critical habitat can be found by clicking on the species name in the list on this page.
More information on applying for incidental take permits for research activities or proposed development projects, or determining if threatened species are present at proposed development sites, see Agency Contacts.