Redwood National Park California Condor Reintroduction Program

This project aims to contribute to the recovery of the endangered California condor and reintroduce it to a portion of its historical range and Yurok Ancestral Territory.

The California condor, currently listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, was once widely distributed and abundant from southern British Columbia to Baja California, Mexico. However, the species is long-lived and has a very slow rate of reproduction, and owing to secondary poisoning, indiscriminate shooting and overharvesting of their primary food sources, their numbers declined precipitously in the late 1800s. By the early 1900s they disappeared from the Pacific Northwest altogether.

Captive breeding was initiated in the 1980s to save the birds from extinction. The condor population has grown from its low of 150 to more than 450; approximately 290 of which live in the wild. To help further the recovery of the California condor, WSP USA partnered with the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Yurok Tribe to study establishing a new population in Redwood National Park through captive releases, while also reintroducing condors to Yurok tribal lands.

The condor plays an integral role in the Yurok Tribe’s culture and, as the condor population slowly rebuilds throughout its historical range, acts as a powerful symbol to the Tribe. Reintroducing condors to the park would also contribute to the restoration of the redwood ecosystem in the park, and fulfill Constitution of the Yurok Tribe directives, which require the Tribal Council to “restore, enhance, and manage the tribal fishery, tribal water rights, tribal forests, and all other natural resources.”

As part of the restoration effort, USFWS is considering whether to designate the reintroduced condor population as a Nonessential Experimental Population (NEP), which would allow USFWS to tailor protections for the population to reduce impacts to stakeholders and ensure the reintroduction is likely to be successful. This designation would allow incidental take from most routine human activities, including fuels management activities to prevent catastrophic wildfire, livestock grazing, recreation, timber harvest more than 200 meters from active nests, and use of existing roads.

WSP is managing the National Environmental Policy Act process, including stakeholder engagement and pubic outreach, technical studies and completion of the Environmental Assessment/Finding of No Significant Impact. The project has been completed and it is anticipated the first condors will be released in 2021.