By Richard Heilbrun, from the Teaming with Wildlife "True to Texas" newsletter:
The terms “endangered” or “threatened” are fairly well known and designate that a plant or animal population is at risk for extinction. By the time a species gets to this status, enormous amounts of time, money, and people are required to recover the populations, if recovery is even possible. Wildlife biologists and environmental stewards prefer to keep populations from declining so dramatically in the first place by identifying at-risk populations before they reach such critically low numbers.
Every state, including Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, has identified plant and animal populations of special concern. These once-stable populations are now declining, or under such threat that they may eventually need to be listed as threatened or endangered. They are called “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” or “SGCNs.” A population may be labelled SGCN either because the population is declining, because the threats to the population are increasing, or because we know so little about the species that we can’t effectively manage for it. Most endangered or threatened species are also listed as an SGCN. Many of these populations need just a little help from landowners and wildlife professionals to rebound back to healthy levels. SGCNs not listed as threatened or endangered present the easiest targets for conservation efforts because they are still prevalent enough to respond to conservation measures, or because we can address the threats to their survival before those threats cause irreparable harm.
Texas has 1,310 Species of Greatest Conservation Need, and they are listed in the Texas Conservation Action Plan, which is our state’s roadmap to recovering our most imperiled plant and animal populations. The TCAP designates each species according to its threat at the state level (S) and the global level (G). For instance, the Whooping Crane (featured in this newsletter) is an S1G1 species, which is the most imperiled status possible. The Salado Springs Salamander is an S1G1 species but not yet listed as endangered or threatened. By contrast, the Texas Horned Lizard (aka horny Toad) is an S4G4, which means a relatively small amount of conservation work may be sufficient to remove it from the list of concern.
The SGCN designation is at the core of the TWW:TTT mission. By increasing awareness of the TCAP and funding for related conservation efforts we may be able to protect and restore SGCN populations before recovery becomes impossible.