The recovery (delisting) of a threatened or endangered species is often accompanied by the expectation that conservation management of the species will no longer be necessary. However, the magnitude and pace of human impacts on the environment make it unlikely that substantial progress will be made in delisting many species unless the definition of “recovery” includes some form of active management. Preventing delisted species from again being at risk of extinction may require continuing, species-specific management actions. We characterize such species as “conservation-reliant”, and suggest that viewing “recovery” as a continuum of states rather than as a simple “recovered/not recovered” dichotomy may enhance our ability to manage such species within the framework of the Endangered Species Act. With ongoing loss of habitat, disruption of natural disturbance regimes, and the increasing impacts of non-native invasive species, it is probable that the number of conservation-reliant species will increase. We propose the development of “recovery management agreements”, with legally and biologically defensible contracts that would provide for continuing conservation management following delisting. The use of such formalized agreements will facilitate shared management responsibilities between federal wildlife agencies and other federal agencies, and with state, local, and tribal governments, as well as with private entities that have demonstrated the capability to meet the needs of conservation-reliant species.
3(7) Frontiers in Ecology & the Env't 383 (2005)