History of the Species of Concern List

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1978: A new Nongame Program is established at the Washington Department of Game. Biologists in the program review literature and interview other wildlife resource professionals to create a list of Species of Concern. Their intent is to identify species characterized as rare, sensitive, uncommon, peripheral, or deserving special management. Biologists begin to prepare status reviews for 40 of the species.

1980: Department Policy #602 is adopted on April 8. Its 15 endangered and 3 threatened species simply reflect Federally-listed species occurring in Washington.

1981: Biologists complete status reviews and analyses for selected species. Policy #602 is updated and approved by the Director on October 5. The State Sensitive definition is similar to present-day State Threatened, a category not included in the 1981 policy. The advisory Species of Concern list numbers 275.

1982: The Nongame Program initiates a project to produce fact sheets for species of concern. The list is re-evaluated with new criteria for "resident or breeding species historically native to Washington." Four criteria are used:

  • Evidence of decline of resident or breeding populations, or contraction of the breeding range of the species within Washington (e.g., bald eagle);
  • Small size or limited distribution of breeding populations (e.g., sea otter, caribou);
  • Habitat specificity or low habitat versatility, with limited availability or high vulnerability of this habitat to alteration (e.g., spotted owl);
  • Intolerance to disturbance during critical phases of life cycle (e.g., snowy plover).
Ninety-four species are dropped from the Species of Concern list. The remaining 185 are classified State Endangered, proposed State Threatened, proposed State Sensitive, or proposed State Monitor.

1983: Policy #602 is updated on February 7. State Sensitive status is renamed State Threatened. The Nongame Program publishes Washington State Special Animal Species in August.

1986: The Nongame Program begins to outline a new classification procedure, using species evaluations, listing proposals, and listing rationales. Department staff review the procedure and listing recommendations.

1987: The Nongame Advisory Council, academia, and other scientists review the procedure and listing recommendations. The Nongame Program publishes Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

1988: Administrative interest in supporting the listing procedure is moderated by the spotted owl's listing as State Endangered. The Wildlife Commission hears no recommendations to classify species. The Nongame Program reinforces its procedure with a statistical ranking system, based on 13 indicators of species status.

1989 & 1990: The Nongame Program works toward establishing the listing procedure as an administrative process. Representatives from conservation organizations, the timber industry, governments, tribes, and the general public form an ad hoc committee. The 29 committee members express three major concerns:

  • Listing/delisting should be based solely on a species' biological status.
  • The process should include a sufficient public review component, to allow inclusion of all relevant data.
  • The process should set the stage for identifying the recovery needs of all listed species, with delisting as the goal.
The committee's final recommendation is submitted to the Wildlife Commission as a consensus proposal with five major components: Definitions, listing criteria, species status review, public review, and Commission hearing. The Commission adopts the process as Washington Administrative Code 232-12-297. The Nongame Program issues Endangered & Threatened 1989 Status Report and Endangered & Threatened 1990 Status Report.

1991: The Department creates Policy #4802 (candidates for listing). Biologists begin to develop recovery plans for state-listed species. The Nongame Program publishes Endangered & Threatened 1991 Status Report.

1993: The Nongame Program takes the first group of eight species through the new listing process. On October 1, the Commission adopts the recommendations to classify or reclassify all eight species (pygmy rabbit, western pond turtle, Oregon silverspot butterfly, western gray squirrel, North American lynx, Steller sea lion, marbled murrelet, Larch Mountain salamander). Listings become effective November 14.

1994: The Nongame Program issues Species of Concern in Washington in April.

1995: The Nongame Program becomes the Wildlife Diversity Division within a merged Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Division publishes recovery plans for the upland sandpiper, snowy plover, and pygmy rabbit.

1996: WDW Policy #4802 is updated and becomes WDFW Policy #6001 (candidate species). The Wildlife Diversity Division issues a recovery plan for the ferruginous hawk.

1997: The Wildlife Diversity Division takes four species through the listing process. On August 9, the Commission adopts the recommendations to classify or reclassify all four species (gray whale, Oregon spotted frog, Aleutian Canada goose, olive ridley sea turtle). Listings become effective on September 25. The Wildlife Management Program revises the State Candidate list.

1998: The Wildlife Diversity Division continues to carry species through the listing process. On April 4, the Commission adopts recommendations to classify two species (sage grouse, sharp-tailed grouse), with listings effective on May 23.