The Humboldt County Commission approved a comment letter to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Proposed Rule to Establish a Nonessential Experimental Population (NEP) of the California condor in the Pacific Northwest.
According to the proposed rule documents, the geographic boundaries would include northern California, Oregon and northwestern Nevada.
The letter expressed the commission’s concerns about reintroducing the species.
Among the many concerns was how it would affect the bird’s endangered species status, what happens to the bird if it moves outside the designated NEP area, how its reintroduction would affect agricultural and recreational activities, and any economic affects its reintroduction may have on the county.
The commission told the USFWS in the letter that while the County supports the general concept of a nonessential experimental population, “the County cannot support the NEP Area extending into Humboldt County. Without additional details in the rule and assurances that Humboldt County will be allowed to continue carrying out essential services and that there will not be a substantial socioeconomic impact, the County cannot support establishment of the Nevada segment of the NEP Area.”
During the meeting’s proceeding, Commission Chairman Jim French mentioned apprehension about reintroducing animal species into the area. “You talk about not just condors,” he said, “but talk about [other] non-essential population expansion. .... If they can do it with the California condor, they can do it with anything.”
Commissioner Ron Cerri agreed, commenting that wolves could be introduced as a result of this kind of action.
The USFWS anticipates the geographic boundary as far as east as US Highway 95 in Humboldt County and as far south as Reno, following the contours of I-80 to Highway 95 into Oregon.
The California condor is listed as a “critically endangered” and became one of the first animal species to be protected under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1967.
About 10,000 years ago, the California Condor’s range extended across much of North America. By 1940, the range had been reduced to the coastal mountains of southern California. California condors have the largest wingspan of any North American bird. By 1987, only 22 condors were in existence.
The condor is one of seven New World vultures and is the largest of the North American vultures. It is an obligate scavenger, which means it relies entirely on dead animals for food.
As of December 2017, there were 290 condors in the wild in the following designated areas: Central California, southern California, northern Arizona and southern Utah.
According to the USFWS, the primary threat to the California condor is lead poisoning from spent ammunition left in the carcasses of animals that condors feed upon. Other threats include habitat destruction, wind energy development and encounters with powerlines.