New Jersey has updated its list of endangered and threatened species for the first time since 2003.
Five new species have been deemed endangered: the black rail, golden-winged warbler, red knot, gray petaltail and Indiana bat.
Nine have been deemed threatened, including the cattle egret and the horned lark.
One key removal from the list was the Cooper’s hawk.
Keeping the list accurate is crucial to preserving rare species, said Margaret O’Gorman, executive director of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.
“When we update the list, we know that the money that’s being spent to protect rare wildlife in the state is being spent on species of greatest need,” O’Gorman said.
Conservation officials spend an estimated $5 million every year in New Jersey on the monitoring, restoration, and recovery of endangered and threatened species. Although the state contributes some of the funding, the bulk comes from the federal government.
Proponents say those dollars are well worth the boon to the state’s biodiversity.
According to O’Gorman, the benefits of conservation extend beyond environmental reasons.
“If you’re not sold on the reason that a healthy biodiversity is really great for our quality of life — that having a rich tapestry of wildlife around us is very important for our well being — you can move into reasons such as economics,” she said, citing revenue from the state’s thriving wild-life based tourism industry.
“People come to Cape May even in the off-season for birding,” she said. “These are people with high incomes, who spend money in that area as they’re basically checking off their life-list for birds in Cape May.”
The guidebook “Top 100 Birding Sites in the World” does include Cape May, calling it “one of the finest sites for birding in the whole of North America.”
Changes to the list came after a six-year process which included a stringent review by the New Jersey’s most knowledgeable wildlife experts.
Those changes were then approved by the Endangered and Nongame Species Advisory Committee in 2011, and officially adopted by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday.
Citing the removal of the Cooper’s hawk from the list, O’Gorman stressed the positive impact that concentrated conservation efforts can have — and have had in the past.
“In 1989 in New Jersey, we had one pair of bald eagles left in the state,” she said. “This year we have over 100 pairs breeding.”
Along with the changes, New Jersey has created a new map which depicts the status of the state’s rare species.
The Conservation Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey has a list of the state’s endangered and threatened animals on its website.