Species become rare when disturbances disrupt their natural activities, diseases impact their population, other species begin to replace them in the ecosystem, and/or their homes are destroyed either by natural or unnatural events. Depending on the severity of the impact or disturbance, some species may be able to naturally recover from such events, provided they are protected from further impacts until populations rebound.
Unfortunately, some species have a harder time rebounding and may become more rare over time because the impacts may have been more severe or possibly irreversible. To prevent an increase in the number of rare species, conserving healthy, native ecological communities is necessary for the preservation of the common species and the protection of the rare.
State Wildlife Action Plans Identify Southeastern Species in Greatest Conservation Need
To develop a proactive plan to address wildlife in the U.S., Congress charged each state and territory to create a State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) following guidelines in the Eight Required Elements of Wildlife Action Plans [PDF, 1 pp., 175 KB]. Also known as Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategies (CWCS), State Wildlife Action Plans aim to address all species while identifying species that are in decline but not already managed or formally protected.
As part of the required elements, each state and territory gathered information on wildlife distribution, abundance, threats, conditions of habitats, and gaps in information. Each state/territory compiled and analyzed information to identify species in decline designated in the wildlife action plan as species in "Greatest Conservation Need" (GCN). Species covered by the plans fall into the following groups of species: amphibians, birds, fishes, mammals and reptiles. Not surprisingly, many of the GCN species are concerns across multiple states. The ultimate goal is protection of wildlife and their habitat now, thereby preventing more at-risk species in the future.
To implement these plans, states are assisted by two federally funded programs: State Wildlife Grants Program (SWG) and the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program; however, to be eligible to receive this funding, wildlife action plans had to be submitted to the US. Fish & Wildlife Service by October 1, 2005. Coordination with other agencies, tribes, organizations, and general public also contributes to each plan's implementation.
Southeastern U.S. Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategies Species Information
The U.S. Geological Survey's National Biological Information Infrastructure compiled "species of greatest conservation need" lists from eight southeastern U.S. states - Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi - into interactive species information. The species are searchable by species group (taxa) or by state and provide live information such as distribution, taxonomy, habitat, and images from a variety of resources.
View the Southeastern species in Greatest Conservation Need by clicking the link on the navigation menu at left.