Guest Opinions

An Idaho congressman plays a key role in recovering endangered birds of prey

Wild California condors can be found nesting in the mountains of Kern, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
Wild California condors can be found nesting in the mountains of Kern, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Peregrine Fund

We should all thank Congressman Mike Simpson for his willingness to invest in Endangered Species Recovery every year over the last decade through support for public-private partnerships. Specifically he has used his leadership on the House Appropriations Committee to urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support non-government organizations, such as The Peregrine Fund, in our partnership with public agencies, to recover species such as the California condor and aplomado falcon.

The majority of funds have been raised from the private sector but the grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to The Peregrine Fund, San Diego Zoo and other NGO’s across the country are essential for maintaining the level of investment necessary to recover these species.

The California condor dwindled to only 22 individuals by 1987 when the entire remaining population was taken into captivity in an effort to prevent the species’ extinction. Today there are 457 California condors in existence thanks to a focused effort by private and public partners.

The largest captive breeding flock is in Boise at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey. These 15 pairs produce 12 to 20 young each year, many of which are released into the Grand Canyon when ready to join the now wild population there. The Peregrine Fund’s ability to play this role in the recovery of the California condor is only possible due to our private supporters and the grants provided as a result of Rep. Simpson’s support.

Adult aplomado falcons have a steel-gray dorsal plumage (“aplomado” is Spanish for gray or lead colored). Cal Sandfort Peregrine Fund

The endangered aplomado falcon, an elegant native falcon of southwestern grasslands disappeared from the U.S. by the middle of the last century. The combination of pesticides (especially DDT), loss of habitat and direct persecution were most likely the culprits for their extirpation.

But favorable environmental factors returned to the U.S. and The Peregrine Fund received permits from the Mexican government to secure nestlings and raise them in Boise to serve as parents for aplomado falcons to be released in Texas and New Mexico.

We raised in Boise and released into the wild nearly 2,000 juvenile falcons over the past 20 years. As a result, today there are 39 pairs nesting in the wild in South Texas — a population that appears sustainable and another huge success for private:public partnerships in restoring Endangered Species.

The Peregrine Fund raises most of the funding for the Aplomado Falcon Restoration Program from private donors. But again, Rep. Simpson has supported this partnership through his work in Congress and we have realized partial financial support for the program, as well as deepened our working relationship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to recover this endangered species together.

Across America, private organizations, individuals and companies are working with public agencies to recover endangered species and to prevent others from becoming listed under the Endangered Species Act. Congressman Simpson continues to play a key role in seeing that public funds are invested wisely alongside private dollars and volunteered time to conserve America’s wildlife heritage. He has also championed legislation to name the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area after longtime advocate Morley Nelson, and most recently enacted legislation which expanded the conservation area to further the goals of protecting important eagle and raptor habitat. Idahoans and all Americans should thank Congressman Simpson for his work in support of recovery of endangered species.

Richard T. Watson is CEO of The Peregrine Fund.