A plan to reintroduce the California condor to the Redwood National Forest could mean the giant raptors will eventually repopulate Oregon’s Rogue Valley as well, a newspaper reported Friday.
Northern California’s Yurok Tribe, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently issued a detailed plan for the reintroduction in an environmental impact report, The Mail Tribune reported .
The reintroduction in California’s Redwood National Forest could also lead the birds to return to parts of southern Oregon, which was once a part of the raptor’s historic range.
The last condor sighting in Oregon was in the town of Drain in 1904.
The plan, which could go into effect as early as next year, includes the caveat that condors would be listed under the federal Endangered Species Act as “nonessential, experimental,” providing bird protection but more flexibility for landowners than if classified as endangered, because it would create no critical habitat for condors, authorities said.
If the assessment passes muster and release permits are secured, condors hatched at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Oregon, could be in the air over the Klamath River next year, with planned releases of six birds a year over 20 years, said Tiana Williams-Claussen, a Yurok biologist and tribe member.
“We haven’t had him for 100 years,” she said. “We continue to dance, but it’s very important that he actually comes home to Yurok country so he can directly participate in our ceremonies.”
Analysis during the assessment shows that condors should do well in Northern California as well as in the Rogue Valley.
“It’s expected that once they get there they should be able to do well and be able to use the environment and move around and get what they need. It’s just a matter of finding the path there in the first place,” Williams-Claussen said.
The assessment does not call for any ban on lead bullets in Oregon, but an unrelated statewide ban on lead bullets goes into effect in California in July, said Candace Tinkler of the National Park Service.
Lead ingestion from eating gut piles left by hunters, along with poisoning from banned chemicals such as DDT, are two of the reasons condors landed on the endangered species list.
Currently lead bullets are banned in condor country in Southern California.
Thursday’s announcement came more than five years after a five-year study concluded that reintroduction of condors was promising and would expand the geographic scope of recovery efforts already in progress in Southern California, the Southwest and Mexico.
The Yuroks have been studying the reintroduction of condors to the lower Klamath River, which flows through Redwood National Park, since 2003.
The condors were documented in the Klamath, Umpqua and Columbia drainages at their peak. But by 1940, its range had been reduced to the coastal mountains of Southern California, and in 1967 condors were added to the first federal list of endangered species.
In 1987, the 17 condors remaining in the wild were brought into captivity, and a captive-breeding program was developed, according to officials at the Oregon Zoo.
So far, condor populations have been re-established only in Arizona, Southern California and Mexico.