Input sought on changes to DNR endangered species list

Bull moose
In a 2011 photo, a bull moose grazes on water lilies north of Ely, Minn. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said on Jan. 4, 2013, that it will conduct research aimed at better understanding the sharp decline in the state's moose population.
AP Photo/The Duluth News-Tribune, Sam Cook, file

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wants the public to weigh in on whether it should consider moose, Canada lynx, and about 180 other plant and animal species to be endangered, threatened or of special concern.

The additions come as the DNR proposes to remove bald eagles, gray wolves and snapping turtles from the list.

The DNR is holding public hearings on Tuesday in Bemidji, Wednesday in Duluth and Thursday in Plymouth.

Besides lynx and moose, the DNR would add two bat species — the big brown bat and little brown myotis — to the list of species of special concern. White nose syndrome has caused bat die-offs in more than a dozen states, although it has not been detected in Minnesota so far.

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DNR endangered species coordinator Rich Baker said that updating the list helps resource managers decide where to focus their efforts.

"The purpose of listing a species as endangered or threatened is to give it the attention it needs," he said. "It's kind of like an emergency room. We want to return it to health and then we want to get it out of the emergency room, get it off the list and back to health."

The DNR's proposed changes would give the state a list of 591 plant and animal species considered to be endangered, threatened or of special concern. There are currently 437 on the list.

Baker said about two-thirds of the changes come from having additional information and research about various species.

"The DNR and other agencies and other researchers around the state have done an enormous amount of work in the past 15 years gathering information on where species are and how they're doing, what the threats are, so more than anything else we're acting on information that we never had before," he said.

However, Baker said, two-thirds of the changes also reflect habitat loss, such as disappearing wetlands. About 10 percent of the changes are because of invasive species, he said.

"There are continuing problems in the state," he said.