There are estimated to be more than 30,000 species in the state, the majority of which are insects. There is simply not enough time, personnel, knowledge or money to work on all these species individually. Fortunately, these species do not occur randomly but co-occur in assemblages (natural communities or habitats) that are repeated across the landscape. The challenge is to focus on a subset of species and communities that will have a high likelihood of conserving the full array of biological diversity. One approach that has been used is known as the coarse filter/fine filter approach.
At-risk species: In order to prioritize which species to focus scarce resources on, the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project Science Team developed a two-tiered approach to identifying those species that may be at-risk of extinction or extirpation from the state. The Tier I species are those that are globally or nationally at-risk. The Tier II list contains those species that are at-risk within Nebraska while apparently doing well in other parts of their range. The rationale for the two-tiered list was to focus attention and resources first on those species that may be headed for global extinction (and federal listing as Threatened or Endangered) and secondarily focus on those species that may be facing extirpation from Nebraska but appear to be stable globally. The Tier I list includes species that are currently state or federally listed as well as those that may be headed for listing. One goal of the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project is to prevent imperilment of species and the need for listing and another goal is recover currently listed species to allow for their delisting.
Endangered and threatened species
Endangered and threatened species, a subset of at-risk species, are animals and plants whose continued existence in Nebraska is in jeopardy. By officially designating a species as endangered or threatened, plans can be put in place to restore the species or to prevent extirpation or extinction. Once a species is designated or listed as endangered, a state law called the Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act automatically prohibits take, exportation and possession, and imposes severe penalties on violators. More than 1,000 proposed projects that would be authorized, funded or carried out by state agencies are reviewed annually as part of a mandatory consultation process designed to prevent a state action from jeopardizing the existence of an endangered or threatened species.
State recovery plans for endangered or threatened species identify, describe and schedule the actions necessary to restore populations of these animals and plants to a more secure status. Plans are implemented on a priority basis, dealing first with species in the most immediate danger, whose life requirements are best known, and those which offer the best opportunity for success. A variety of wildlife management techniques are used, including reintroduction, captive propagation, protection of habitat through various forms of acquisition, habitat manipulation and development, public education and strict legal protection.
The 30 species listed below are are those that have been listed as endangered or threatened in Nebraska.
- American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus)
- American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium)
- Black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes)
- Blacknose shiner (Notropis heterolepis)
- Blowout penstemon (Penstemon haydenii)
- Colorado butterfly plant (Gaura neomexicana ssp. coloradensis)
- Eskimo curlew (Numenius borealis)
- Finescale dace (Chrosomus neogaeus)
- Gray wolf Canis lupus)
- Interior least tern (Sternula antillarum athalassos)
- Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens)
- Western massasauga (Sistrurus tergeminus)
- Mountain plover (Charadrius montanus)
- Northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis)
- Northern redbelly dace (Chrosomus eos)
- Pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus)
- Piping plover (Charadrius melodus)
- River otter (Lontra canadensis)
- Rufa red knot (Caldris canutus rufa)
- Salt Creek tiger beetle (Cicindela nevadica lincolniana)
- Saltwort (Salicornia rubra)
- Scaleshell mussel (Leptodea leptodon)
- Small white lady’s slipper (Cypripedium candidum)
- Southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans)
- Sturgeon chub (Macrhybopsis gelida)
- Swift fox (Vulpes velox)
- Topeka shiner (Notropis topeka)
- Ute ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes diluvialis)
- Western prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara)
- Whooping crane (Grus americana)
Examples of efforts focused on Nebraska’s endangered and threatened species include:
- Efforts are being made to re-establish breeding populations of several wildlife species that were extirpated from the state long ago. For example, the endangered river otter is rebounding in Nebraska after being extirpated in the state. More than 100 otters captured in other states and Canadian provinces have been transported to Nebraska and released into major river drainages, where they have again begun to flourish.
- Nesting colonies of the endangered least tern and threatened piping plover are documented and monitored to determine reproductive success and to delineate essential nesting habitat. Data is used to identify management practices necessary for restoration of the two species. River sandbars have been cleared of vegetation to provide suitable nesting habitat. Nesting colonies susceptible to human disturbance are posted with signs to prevent intrusions.
- Whooping crane migration stopover sites are being documented and monitored so that threatened, essential habitat can be protected.
- Research on the swift fox, blowout penstemon, least tern and mountain plover, conducted by universities under contract with the Game and Parks Commission, has identified factors limiting the survival of these species, and has helped determine how the species can be restored or how further population declines can be prevented.
- The endangered blowout penstemon has been propagated in University of Nebraska greenhouses and successfully transplanted to suitable habitat in the Nebraska Sandhills.
Additionally, threatened and endangered species are protected by the Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species act. The intent of the act is to conserve species of wildlife for human enjoyment, for scientific purposes and to insure their perpetuation as viable components of their ecosystems. According to section 37-807(3) All other state agencies shall, in consultation with and with the assistance of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, utilize their authorities in furtherance of the purposes of the act by carrying out programs for the conservation of endangered species and threatened species listed pursuant to section 37-806 and by taking such action necessary to insure that actions authorized, funded or carried out by them do not jeopardize the continued existence of such endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or modification.
Learn more about threatened and endangered species consultations
Learn more about Nebraska’s endangered and threatened species on our rare species website.