But it wasn't always so easy to see these large birds in action. DDT use decimated the pelican population to such low numbers that in 1970, it was placed under the protection of the Endangered Species Preservation Act, the first version of the current Endangered Species Act. DDT interfered with the shell formation in pelican young, making their shells too thin and unable to support the growing chick. Pelicans were one of the many species that DDT damaged, leading to a nation-wide ban of the pesticide's use in 1972. Since then, pelican populations have been fighting back to regain their numbers.
The pelicans have been overwhelmingly successful. Since the ban of DDT, brown pelican populations have increased 65 fold. The Fish and Wildlife Service removed the brown pelican population in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and northward along the Atlantic Coast states from the list of endangered species in 1985, but the remaining populations, including those in the "pelican state" of Louisiana, still remained protected until they could fully get back on their webbed feet.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar happily announced on Nov. 11th that the brown pelican's numbers had rebounded so well throughout its range that it is no longer considered threatened.
“At a time when so many species of wildlife are threatened, we once in a while have an opportunity to celebrate an amazing success story,” Salazar said in a press release about the decision. “Today is such a day. The brown pelican is back!”The removal of this species from the Endangered Species Act is a huge success for conservation efforts. While fewer laws now watch over the pelicans, it's important to note that they are not completely unprotected. Additional federal laws, such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act, will continue to protect the brown pelican and its nests and eggs. U.S. Fish and Wildlife will also continue to keep a watchful eye via their Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan, which is designed to monitor and verify that the recovered, delisted population remains secure from the risk of extinction once the protections of the ESA are removed. If the pelican shows significant declines, they won't hesitate to relist them.
The final rule removing the bird from the list of threatened and endangered species will be published in the Federal Register and will take effect 30 days after publication. By 2010, it will be official that the brown pelican is no longer threatened anywhere in its US range.