Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 24, 2023


Stephanie Kurose, (202) 849-8395,

San Clemente Island Bell’s Sparrow Flies Off Endangered Species List

Four Island Plants Also Recover in Major Endangered Species Act Success

LOS ANGELES— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it’s removing the Bell’s sparrow and four plants found only on San Clemente Island from the endangered species list due to recovery.

The 57-square-mile San Clemente Island sits off the southern coast of California and is entirely owned and managed by the U.S. Navy. The introduction of sheep, cattle, pigs, mule deer and goats led to the decline of the island’s native species. In 1977 the Bell’s sparrow was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and the San Clemente Island bush-mallow, San Clemente Island paintbrush, San Clemente Island lotus, and San Clemente Island larkspur were listed as endangered.

“This is an incredible comeback story for five of California’s unique Channel Island species that fought so hard to survive for decades,” said Stephanie Kurose, a senior policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, we can celebrate their recovery along with the 50th anniversary of one of the world’s most successful conservation laws.”

Grayish-brown with a small dark breast spot, white eye rings, and striking white-and-black stripes, the Bell’s sparrow declined to as few as 38 known individuals by 1984. Similarly imperiled, by 1990 only a single known bush-mallow clung to life on the island, according to media reports.

The Navy began removing feral goats and pigs from the island in 1992, roughly two centuries after sailors first brought the animals ashore. The Bell’s sparrow population has since bounced back to more than 4,000 adults, and the removal of goats has enabled the island’s native plants to recover.

“The introduction of invasive livestock was shortsighted and irresponsible, but I’m relieved the Navy took responsibility for its past mistakes and removed these nonnative animals to restore this fragile ecosystem,” said Kurose.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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