Endangered Species Act Milestones: 2010s

In August 2011, conservationists involved in the effort to recover the federally threatened Chiricahua leopard frog celebrated the release of the 10,000th captive-bred frog into the wild.

The decade opened with the International Year of Biodiversity, with organizations across the globe working to raise awareness of the importance of conserving species – no matter their perceived value – while shining the light on the tools and partnerships in place to ensure a future for all life. While superhero films dominated the box office and a yearslong technological tsunami brought everything from the iPad to self-driving cars, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set sights on improving and strengthening implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and providing the best possible conservation for the nation's imperiled wildlife and plants. As a result, the 2010s saw a number of success stories that served to remind us that the law remains a remarkably successful tool for preventing extinction and steadily improving the conservation prospects for vanishing species.


  • The Service reclassifies the Okaloosa darter from endangered to threatened, recognizing that the small fish has made significant strides toward recovery.

  • The Service recognizes the Oregon chub's improved condition by changing its legal status from endangered to threatened.

  • The 10,000th captive-bred Chiricahua leopard frog is released into the wild.

  • Biologists confirm that silvery minnows stocked in the Big Bend reach of the Rio Grande in Texas are successfully spawning—a major step in establishing the small, shiny fish outside the middle Rio Grande.

  • short-tailed albatross pair incubating a single egg at Midway Island Atoll National Wildlife Refuge brings hope for the beginning of a new nesting site away from the threat of a volcano at the main site on Torishima Island.


  • The Black-footed Ferret Recovery Program is celebrates two major milestones: the 30th Anniversary of the species' rediscovery and the 20th Anniversary of their successful return to the wild.

  • The Maguire daisy is delisted following recovery.

  • The Lake Erie water snake is delisted following recovery.

  • The Tennessee purple coneflower is delisted following recovery.

  • Bull trout return to Oregon's Clackamas River, one of their home waters from which they were completely wiped out nearly 50 years earlier.

  • A survey finds the Atlantic Coast piping plover breeding population has more than doubled from 790 pairs when it was first listed as a threatened species under the ESA in 1986 to nearly 1,800 pairs in 2011—close to the range-wide recovery goal of 2,000 pairs.

  • A survey of western snowy plovers in Oregon finds the population is nearing recovery goals, rebounding from just 35 adult plovers in 1992 to a record 214 adults and 168 fledglings in 2011.

  • In an effort to improve ESA implementation, the Service submits a multi-year listing workplan that will enable the agency to systematically review and address the needs of over 250 species listed on the 2010 Candidate Notice of Review, to determine if they warrant ESA protection.

  • The Service reclassifies the tulotoma snail from endangered to threatened, declaring the ornate river snail is making major strides on the road to recovery.

  • The Concho water snake is delisted following recovery.

  • The world's first successful captive breeding of the Ozark hellbender occurs at the Saint Louis Zoo.

  • The Northern Rocky Mountains distinct population of the gray wolf is delisted following recovery, except in Wyoming.

  • Biologists relocate 24 Nihoa millerbirds from their last remaining holdout on remote Nihoa Island to Laysan Island. In a bold effort, the tiny songbirds were transported 650 miles northwest by sea to initiate a second population and minimize the risk of extinction.

  • short-tailed albatross chick hatches on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge – about 1,200 miles northwest of Honolulu – marking the first confirmed hatching of a short-tailed albatross outside of the islands surrounding Japan in recorded history.


  • The Morelet's crocodile is delisted following recovery.

  • The gray wolf is delisted following recovery, including Wyoming.

  • Biologists discover that endangered Nihoa millerbirds reintroduced to Hawaii's Laysan Island in 2011, after a 100-year absence, are now breeding there—a major step forward in efforts to save the species from extinction.

  • Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, located along the Atlantic coastline of central Florida, has its best loggerhead sea turtle nesting season since 1998, with nearly 19,000 nests recorded.


  • The Service and NOAA Fisheries jointly finalize a policy to improve and clarify implementation of the ESA by providing a formal interpretation of the phrase "significant portion of its range" that appears in the ESA definitions of "endangered species" and "threatened species."
  • The island night lizard is delisted following recovery.
  • The wood stork is reclassified from endangered to threatened. Read the news release.
  • The Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel, one of the animals included on the first list of endangered species, is delisted following recovery. Read the news release


  • The Oregon chub becomes the first fish delisted due to recovery. Read the news release.
  • The Service and NOAA Fisheries jointly reclassify the green sea turtle under the ESA, and list turtles originating from two breeding populations currently considered endangered as threatened due to improvements in their populations.

  • The Service and its partners celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first Safe Harbor Agreement, created in 1995 to protect the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

  • A successful multi-state conservation effort leads to the removal of the New England cottontail from the list of candidates for ESA protection. 

  • The Service determines that the greater sage-grouse does not require ESA protection following successful conservation actions of 11 western states, federal agencies, private landowners, and industry. 


  • The Louisiana black bear is delisted following recovery. Read the news release.
  • Three subspecies of fox native to the California Channel Islands are delisted following recovery. This represents the fastest-ever recovery of a mammal in the history of the ESA in the United States. Read the news release.
  • The white-haired goldenrod is delisted following recovery. 
  • The Columbian white-tailed deer is reclassified from endangered to threatened.

  • The Service and NOAA Fisheries update a policy to re-affirm the commitment of collaborating with state agencies to more effectively implement the ESA and protect the nation's imperiled wildlife. Read the news release.


  • The lesser long-nosed bat is delisted following recovery.
  • The Service provides a conservation credit system for states to reward landowners for voluntary actions that protect imperiled wildlife.
  • The West Indian manatee is reclassified from endangered to threatened after conservation partnerships inspired by the ESA improve habitat and expand manatee populations.
  • With studies showing stable populations of scarlet-chested and turquoise parrots, both species are removed from the ESA.