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The Kirtland’s Warbler is an iconic species in Michigan, nesting primarily in the jack pine forests of the northern Lower Peninsula. As recently as 1987 there were fewer than 400 birds in the entire population. Today there are more than 4,000 birds, and the population continues to grow to a point where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined its population is now at a level to be considered “recovered.” In October 2019, the Kirtland’s Warbler was removed from the Endangered Species List. That is a reason to celebrate. However, it does not mean we can wash our hands and walk away, because conservation of the Kirtland’s Warbler has special challenges. Unlike every other animal that has been removed from the Endangered Species List, the Kirtland's Warbler will require continued human intervention to ensure its survival.
William Rapai is the author of The Kirtland’s Warbler: The Story of a Bird’s Fight for Survival and the People Who Saved It. He is also Executive Director of the Kirtland’s Warbler Alliance, a nonprofit created to support Kirtland’s Warbler conservation.