A state list first established nearly 30 years ago to highlight and help protect plants and animals at risk of disappearing from Minnesota has received its first official update since 1996.
Following a series of five public hearings, an 86-day comment period and review by an administrative law judge, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on Monday, Aug. 19, adopted a new list of endangered, threatened and special concern species. Twenty-nine species, including the bald eagle, wolf and snapping turtle, were removed from the list; 180 species of plants and animals were added; 91 species had their status either upgraded or downgraded while remaining on the list. The changes were based on large amounts of new information gathered by DNR and other researchers.
Minnesota’s endangered species law requires the DNR to create and periodically revise such a list, and it prescribes three levels of concern. An endangered species is one that is at great risk of extinction within the state. A threatened species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. A species of special concern, though not at immediate risk, is considered vulnerable because of its rarity or highly specific habitat requirements.
The law prohibits the taking or possession of endangered and threatened species except in certain situations. If a proposed project cannot avoid a protected species, the state can issue a “taking permit” that is combined with mitigation, such as funding for research or acquisition of other sites to protect the species. Over the past decade, DNR has received 23 applications for development-related taking permits and it has issued all but one.
“The ultimate goal of putting a plant or animal on the list isn’t to put up walls around it; it’s to restore its health and get it back off the list,” said Rich Baker, DNR endangered species coordinator. “There are plenty of examples of that happening, and it doesn’t have to come at the expense of sustainable economic development.”
More information on Minnesota’s endangered, threatened and special concern species can be found on the DNR’s website.