By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
Originally posted September 14, 2018
Can you believe we’re living in The Future? For decades, the year 2000 seemed impossibly far away. Folks imagined that, by now, we’d have robot teachers and colonies on Mars, and the end of all disease. Companies would add the number “2000” after model numbers to connote cutting-edge technology from the bright, distant horizon. Marty McFly’s 2015 was a land of flying cars, expanding pizza, and self-tying shoes. (And fax machines. Fax machines were everywhere.)
Some of those visions for the future were spot on; others now seem charmingly out-of-date; and we’re still waiting for many of the rest to be invented. But isn’t it fantastic how often we hear about inventions that were inspired by Science Fiction? If “[science] is magic that works,” as Kurt Vonnegut says in Cat’s Cradle, then Science Fiction is the root of much of that magic. Imagination becomes ideas, which in turn become experiments. Experiments lead to discoveries, then inventions, and ultimately to the commonplace wonders we take for granted: such as the submarine (Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), the cell phone (the direct descendent of the “communicator” from the original Star Trek series), and even nuclear power (H.G. Wells’ The World Set Free). 
Wait. A fiction writer born in the 1800s gave the world the idea for nuclear power? It’s true! Decades after its publication, a scientist named Leo Szilard “read [The World Set Free] and was immediately inspired to create what Wells had dreamed up” – for better or for worse.  And when a teenaged Robert H. Goddard read Wells’ The War of the Worlds, it set him on a path of “research [that] culminated with the Apollo program, and man’s landing on the moon.”  So there’s an undeniable link between the Science Fiction genre and humanity’s incredible achievements. Keep that in mind the next time your friends give you a hard time for being a sci-fi geek!
Another cool thing about the sci-fi genre is that it often combines elements of many other genres, as well. There’s sci-fi horror, sci-fi thriller, sci-fi mystery, sci-fi romance… You get it. So, without further ado, I’m going to leave you with a great list of Science Fiction authors (many of them you’ll find on our genre bookmarks in the library), titles of some of their works, and sometimes the additional genres that come into play. (For example, when you see “humor,” think of it as “sci-fi + humor,” and so on.)
- Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (humor)
- A. American – Survivalist series (pulpy but fun)
- Charlie Jane Anders – All the Birds in the Sky
- Hiromu Arakawa – Fullmetal Alchemist (manga)
- Catherine Asaro – Quantum Rose
- Isaac Asimov – Foundation series; Galactic Empire series; Robot series
- Gertrude Barrows Bennett – Citadel of Fear (under pseudonym “Francis Stevens”)
- Alfred Bester – The Stars My Destination (cyberpunk); The Demolished Man
- Leigh Brackett – The Long Tomorrow
- Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles; The Veldt (short story)
- Octavia E. Butler – Xenogenesis series
- Pat Cadigan – Synners (cyberpunk)
- Orson Scott Card – Ender’s Game series (YA)
- Margaret Cavendish – The Blazing World (published in 1666!)
- Becky Chambers – A Closed and Common Orbit
- C. L. Cherryh – Downbelow Station
- Arthur C. Clarke – 2001: A Space Odyssey (there are four books in the series); Childhood’s End
- Ernest Cline – Ready Player One; Armada
- Peter Clines – 14 (mystery, horror, paranormal); The Fold (thriller)
- Michael Crichton – Sphere (psychological thriller); Jurassic Park; Prey
- Philip K. Dick – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; Ubik; A Scanner Darkly (police procedural)
- William Gibson – Neuromancer (cyberpunk); The Difference Engine (written with Bruce Sterling) (steampunk); Virtual Light (dark humor, detective)
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman – Herland
- Joe Haldeman – The Forever War series; The Accidental Time Machine
- Frank Herbert – Dune saga
- Hugh Howey – Silo series (post-apocalyptic)
- Kameron Hurley – The Stars Are Legion
- Aldous Huxley – Brave New World; Ape and Essence
- P. D. James – Children of Men
- Nancy Kress – Beggars in Spain
- Larissa Lai – Salt Fish Girl
- Ursula K. Le Guin – Hainish Cycle; The Eye of the Heron; The Left Hand of Darkness
- Madeleine L’Engle – Kairos cycle (beginning with A Wrinkle in Time) (children’s, “science fantasy”)
- Cixin Liu – Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy (hard science fiction)
- Katherine MacLean – Pictures Don’t Lie (stories)
- Emily St. John Mandel – Station Eleven
- George R. R. Martin – Tuf Voyaging; the Wildcards universe
- Robert Masello – The Einstein Prophecy (historical fiction, mystery, thriller)
- Julian May – Pliocene Exile series (high fantasy)
- Anne McCaffrey – The Ship Who Sang
- Seanan McGuire – Parasitology Trilogy series (sociological, under pseudonym “Mira Grant”)
- Maureen F. McHugh – China Mountain Zhang
- Judith Merril – The Tomorrow People
- Elizabeth Moon – The Speed of Dark
- Larry Niven – Tales of Known Space series; Ringworld and the Fleet of Worlds series
- Alice Norton – The Time Traders (under pseudonym “Andre Norton”)
- Christopher Nuttall – The Oncoming Storm (military, space opera); The Royal Sorceress (steampunk, alternate history)
- Nnedi Okorafor – Who Fears Death
- Malka Older – Infomocracy
- George Orwell – 1984 (speculative, “social science fiction”)
- Frederik Pohl – The Coming of the Quantum Cats; the Heechee saga (space opera)
- Kim Stanley Robinson – Mars trilogy (literary)
- Joanna Russ – The Female Man (experimental and not what you think)
- Mary Doria Russell – The Sparrow
- Carl Sagan – Contact
- John Scalzi – Redshirts; Old Man’s War series
- Alice Bradley Sheldon – Her Smoke Rose up Forever (stories, under pseudonym “James Tiptree, Jr.”)
- Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
- Dan Simmons – Ilium series (fantasy); Hyperion Cantos series (fantasy)
- Neal Stephenson – Cryptonomicon (historical fiction); Snow Crash (cyberpunk)
- Karin Tidbek – Amatka
- Jules Verne – Journey to the Center of the Earth (adventure)
- Thea von Harbou – Metropolis
- Kurt Vonnegut – Cat’s Cradle; Slaughterhouse Five; The Sirens of Titan (all conceptual/unconventional)
- Sabrina Vourvoulias – Ink
- David Weber – Honor Harrington series (military); The Apocalypse Troll
- Andy Weir – The Martian; Artemis
- H. G. Wells – The Time Machine; The Island of Doctor Moreau; The Invisible Man; The War of the Worlds
- Martha Wells – The Murderbot Diaries series (described as a fun read!)
- Connie Willis – To Say Nothing of the Dog (historical fiction, rom-com, humor, time travel)
That’s enough to get you started, right? Remember, if we don’t have a book at the Williamson County Public Library, we’ll try to locate it with Inter-Library Loan. Enjoy – and be inspired!
I sourced most of the woman authors and their works from this excellent list: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/50-sci-fi-must-reads-by-women
By Stephen McClain, Reference Department
Originally posted November 20, 2015
Did you know that Williamson County Public Library patrons can access Ancestry.com for free while in the library? Neither did I – and I am guessing that many other people in Williamson County don’t know either. Like many people in the United States, I have a multicultural background, but have never been absolutely certain what my ethnicity truly is. I have long been interested in tracing my roots and wondered when my ancestors first arrived on this continent, but without access to the proper resources, I never really looked into it. My surname suggests that I am Scottish and I have always celebrated that part of my lineage without really knowing the percentage or who first emigrated from the land of bagpipes and single malt whisky. Also, I have been told that my maternal side is of German or Austrian descent, but no one is really sure.
Census Records, Birth and Death Certificates and Marriage Records
When I first started searching Ancestry.com for information on my grandparents, the most readily available data that I found was census records. The search tab at the top left side of the home page provides users with a number of search options, but the easiest way to get started is to simply click the green “Begin Searching” button in the middle of the page. Though I was too young to remember meeting him, I know my paternal great grandfather’s full name and where he lived. By searching his name and town of residence, I was able to locate his father’s name via a combination of census, birth and death records. I repeated this process several times, and through the historical mist, I was able to find that my fifth great grandfather was born in Scotland in 1681 and arrived in what would become the United States in 1766. My family name has apparently been in this country for a very long time and the reveal of this information somewhat diminished my feelings of a connection with the Scottish homeland. I am not going to stop enjoying single malt Scotch whisky or listening to the pipes, but maybe I shouldn’t have gotten married in a kilt…either way, I had another side of my family to research.
The maternal side of my lineage has always been somewhat of a mystery. No one in the family seems to know where the names come from. The names of my maternal grandparents both suggest German, Austrian, Slovak or Hungarian lineage. I searched my grandfather’s name and with very little effort, found out that his father was Hungarian. The 1920 U.S. Census records show that he was born in Hungary and his native tongue was Slavish. While his mother was born in Pennsylvania, her parents were born in Hungary as well, with the same linguistic details. I am 3rd generation Hungarian and never knew it! Maybe that’s why I like stuffed cabbage and lekvar pierogis so much? I don’t know. Regardless, I was excited to know that I had found a relatively recent connection to my European past. And because in many cases, Ancestry.com provides users with an actual scanned copy of the documents, I was able to see that this area in Pennsylvania was a true ethnic community. The birthplaces of the majority of the people (or the birthplaces of their parents) listed on the census record were Eastern European; Austria, Hungary, and Russia. How could my mother and her siblings have grown up not knowing that their grandparents were from Hungary? The reason is probably because so many European migrants of that time wished to disassociate themselves from their past and start a new life in America. They were struggling to make a new start while making a living in a brand new country, most often doing very difficult factory work. Maintaining and passing on a cultural identity was probably not on their list of important things to do.
When I was younger, I remember being told to be careful what you look for, you might find something you didn’t want to know. I grew up knowing most of my great aunts and uncles on my mother’s side of the family. There was only one uncle that I never met, who was killed in WW II…or so I thought he was the only one. Upon examining some census data that listed the household members at my great grandparents’ residence, I read a name listed that I had never heard before. A female child that was unknown to me. This mystery aunt was 2 years older than my oldest great aunt, of whom I grew up visiting on a regular basis. Who was this person? Was she the black sheep of the family that was shunned and disowned? Was she a convicted criminal that the family was keeping hidden? Maybe she was busted for making bathtub gin during Prohibition. I hoped so. That would be so cool. I was both eager and afraid to find out. I had to know who this person was and I could only hope that there was some guarded, veiled story to go along with this ghost on the census form. With anxious trepidation, I called my aunt and asked if she knew the identity of this missing relative. Without hesitation, she said, “That was grandma’s sister who died.” Mystery solved, though, too abruptly for my apprehensive curiosity. But what happened to her and why was she never mentioned? I was told that she died from a common complication after childbirth simply because she didn’t have access to the necessary medication and treatment. Wow. It had happened so long ago that she was never mentioned in my time. No romantic tales of rebellion, crime or calamity, but a somber reminder of harder times, to say the least.
Phone and Street Directories
My searches also produced a large number of scanned city phone directories dating back to the 1920s. When searching for a name on Ancestry.com, users are given categories on the left of the page. One of those choices is “Schools, Directories and Church Histories.” Though it was never mentioned in any family stories, I now know that the likely reason my maternal grandparents met is because their families lived on the same street. These old phone directories most often show not only telephone numbers and addresses, but also the name of individuals who were living at that address, i.e. another relative or a boarder. This is a great tool in locating exactly where a relative may have lived. And if nothing else, it is intriguing to see telephone numbers such as “WAlbridge 1154 and BLackstone 2311.”
My paternal grandfather and many of my maternal great uncles were in World War Two. I was able to locate the muster rolls that listed my grandfather’s name and the ship he was on. (Yeah, I never heard the term “muster roll” either. It is the register of the officers and men in a military unit or on a ship. Thanks, Wikipedia.) I also found out that my maternal great uncle was killed at Pearl Harbor and I located a detailed photograph of the monument that lists his name. Additionally in the military records, I was able to find the scanned copies of WW I and WWII draft registration cards for both of my great grandfathers. The documents are hand written and include the signatures of the men. To locate documents such as these, simply type in the name of the person that you are searching and after clicking “Search”, you will see all of the results for that name. To the left of the page, there is a listing of categories, such as “Census and Voter Lists” and “Birth, Marriage and Death.” The third category is “Military.” This option will produce information on draft registration, enlistment, casualties, and gravesites, just to name a few. There is also a great deal of information on Civil War soldiers and the American Revolution.
This is just a sample of the information available at Ancestry.com and a bit of my personal experience in looking for my roots. It was great fun for me searching through my relative’s collective pasts and getting just a glimpse of their lives well before I was a twinkle in someone’s eye. Whenever you are ready to do your own searching, come to the second floor of the Williamson County Public Library and log on to a computer or visit one of the staff in the Special Collections department and they will help you with your queries. Access to Ancestry.com is only available to patrons while they are physically in the library. On the library’s website, move the mouse over Special Collections on the left of the page and click on Digital Genealogy. From there, click on Access Ancestry Library while visiting the library. The Williamson County Public Library also offers free classes on Introduction to Ancestry.com once a month.
But be advised, you may find something you didn’t expect…
By Lisa Lombard, Reference Department
Originally posted on July 17, 2015
You read it correctly; July is National Ice-Cream Month! In addition to celebrating the Fourth of July, we have a month long celebration of ice-cream! Does that not sound awesome? Who does not love an excuse to eat ice-cream (or anything you normally would not have)? On those days when you don’t want to leave the house, want an extra special treat for a birthday party, the Fourth of July, a bar-b-q, or any other type of party homemade ice-cream will be a crowd pleaser! The two following recipes are for vanilla ice-cream, to keep it simple especially if this is your first time making homemade ice-cream. The first recipe you will need an electric ice-cream maker and the second recipe is one sure to get family and friends involved (or a good arm workout for yourself!) and does not require any type of electricity, just good ole fashioned elbow grease! Happy ice-cream making and enjoy the scrumptious summertime treat!
Recipe #1 (This is a Paula Dean Recipe from the FoodNetwork)
Total Time: 3 hr 10 min Prep: 10 min Inactive: 3 hr
Yield: approximately 1 gallon
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups white sugar
- 2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- Whole milk
- With an electric mixer, cream eggs and sugar. Add evaporated milk, condensed milk, and vanilla. Beat well.
- Pour into an electric ice cream churn. Add whole milk to fill line. Insert dasher.
- Pack cooler 1/3 full with ice. Add a layer of rock salt. Repeat layering with ice and salt until full. Note: be careful not to overfill, spilling salt into the churn.
- When machine starts to labor or shut off, remove the dasher and drain water. Fill with more ice and salt.
- Cover with a towel and let harden.
Recipe #2 (This recipe was found at the blog, 2 little hooligans)
Ingredients and supplies:
- 2 TBL sugar
- 1 cup half & half (or light cream)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup coarse salt or table salt
- gallon-sized Ziploc bag
- pint-sized Ziploc bag
- Mix the sugar, half & half and vanilla extract together. Pour into a pint-sized Ziploc baggie. Make sure it seals tightly.
- Now take the gallon-sized Ziploc bag and fill it up halfway with ice and pour the salt over the ice. Now place the cream filled bag into the ice filled bag and seal.
- Make sure it is sealed tightly and start shaking. Shake for about 5 minutes (or 8 minutes if you use heavy cream).
- Open the gallon-sized bag and check to see if the ice cream is hard, if not keep shaking. Once the ice cream is finished, quickly run the closed pint-sized baggie under cold water to quickly clean the salt off the baggie. You are now ready to dig in and enjoy!
There you have it, two ways to make homemade ice-cream in celebration of National Ice-Cream month! Do not forget to keep some fun and tasty toppings on hand for those who want to jazz up their classic vanilla ice-cream, enjoy!
By Shannon Owens, Reference Department
June 28, 1914…a date which will live in infamy? Well, something like that, at any rate. For those left in the dark, June 28th signifies the anniversary of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke and heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne. Most casual observers believe this incident was the cause of The Great War (WWI.) It should go without saying that this grossly oversimplifies the situation. The late 1800s saw a shift in the fairly equal balance of powers that had previously dominated the political landscape of Europe. Several causes led to this, but suffice to say, the continent was braced for a fight. By 1914, Europe was simply a ticking time bomb, ready to explode. Many thought war was inevitable (this begs the chicken vs the egg question: did war break out simply because enough important people didn’t see another recourse? Depressing to consider.) At any rate, a Serbian national shot Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, on a state visit in Sarajevo…and the rest, as they say, is history.
What is less often mused over is how unlikely it was that this situation would come to fruition in the first place. Heck, Franz Ferdinand wasn’t even supposed to be the heir to the great Habsburg line in the first place. His cousin, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, was the son of Emperor Franz Josef. However, he died suddenly, in a sordid fog of mystery, that wouldn’t be out of place in a 21st century soap opera. Rudolf was not a man known for fidelity, the number of affairs he conducted were countless. Cue the Mayerling Incident. In 1887, he bought Mayerling and turned it into a hunting lodge of sorts. The following year, Crown Prince Rudolf (then 30 years old) met Baroness Marie Vetsera, a young woman of 17. Simply put, the baroness was utterly besotted, she worshiped him fully. For his part, it’s hard to imagine that he returned the young girl’s ardor, but he probably cared for her. At the very least, he was a vain man, and likely loved to be the center of a lovely young woman’s world. On the morning of January 30th, 1889, a valet broke his way into a Mayerling bedroom after hearing two pistol shots. Once inside, he found a gruesome scene. The prince’s skull had been partially blown away, his body slumped on the bed next to the body of his young mistress.
The official report stated that Rudolf had shot his mistress then proceeded to kill himself (he had also been declared “mentally unbalanced”.) This is likely the truth. Other conspiracies have been suggested over the years but none really stick. Crown Prince Rudolf (despite his womanizing and carousing) was a more liberal figure than his father and other European heads of state at that time. He was resolutely against unnecessary military conflict and intervention. He was constantly at odds with his overbearing father and may very well have been a deeply unhappy man.
With Rudolf’s death, Archduke Karl Ludwig (the emperor’ eldest surviving brother) became the heir presumptive. After Karl Ludwig’s death, his son, Franz Ferdinand, became the heir presumptive. Had Crown Prince Rudolf lived (and if his father abdicated in the tradition of his father before him) Austria would have had a leader with a far more pacifist outlook than his father. He may very well have been against the military alliance with Germany that was instrumental in the outbreak of World War I. Unfortunately, that was not the way history played out. The Great War was one of the most brutal wars of all time, resulting in the deaths of roughly 40 million souls.
Originally posted June 12, 2015
Isn’t June everybody’s favorite month? School is out and the summer is spread out before us like a church picnic. In 1998, President Clinton designated June as Great Outdoors Month, and since then, the month-long celebration has grown by leaps and bounds, with special events planned throughout the month to showcase our nation’s parks and waterways.
This got me thinking — how would I observe and enjoy the great outdoors right here at home? I love exploring historic sites and parks with a camera, not at all hard to do in Williamson County, but if that’s not your cup of tea, opportunities are plentiful for outdoor fun, exercise and relaxation. And the best part? Almost everything is free and ADA accessible. So, what are you waiting for? Get out and find your happy place!
- Timberland Park
One of the newest of Williamson County Parks, located just south of New Highway 96 on the Natchez Trace Parkway. Timberland has pristine wooded trails, one of which is ADA accessible with a turnaround overlook at the end. There is also a very inviting high rocking chair deck at the interpretive center just waiting for you!
- Franklin Historic Audio Cell Phone Tours
To tour Franklin historic parks, print a copy of the brochure and tour from the online link below, and then call the number provided. The tour will take you to designated areas of these Historic Franklin parks.
1) Historical overview of the Battle of Franklin, 2) Winstead Hill, 3) The Cotton Gin Assault on Columbia Avenue, 4) Rest Haven Cemetery, 5) City Cemetery, 6) The Park at Harlinsdale Farm, 7) Fort Granger and Roper’s Knob, 8) Collins Farm, 9) Eastern Flank Battle Park, 10) Toussaint L’Ouverture Cemetery, 11) McLemore House, and 12) Hard Bargain Neighborhood. Visit Franklin Walking Tour App
- Fort Granger Park and Pinkerton Park
You can go to one or both from the same entrance off Highway 96. Or, you can walk from Historic Downtown Franklin using the Sue Douglas Berry Memorial Pedestrian Bridge which will take you right into Pinkerton. Signs will direct you to Fort Granger from the bridge.
- Fort Granger is a hidden gem, quiet and expansive, yet sheltered. It has its own entrance off Eddy Lane which is ADA accessible with ramps that will take you through the park. This is the quiet side of Pinkerton, and you’ll find folks relaxing in hammocks or on the ground having quiet conversations and enjoying the solitude under the shade trees. http://www.franklin-gov.com/government/parks/facilities-and-parks/park-locations-maps/park-locations/fort-granger
- Pinkerton is the most highly used passive park in the City of Franklin Park system. Pavilions are obtained on a first-come, first-serve basis, and it is a great place for a family reunion. With expansive space, grills, walking trails, and Tinkerbell Park, you can easily spend the day. http://www.franklin-gov.com/government/parks/facilities-and-parks/park-locations-maps/park-locations/pinkerton-park
- City of Franklin Park Trail Systems
Get mileage, location and surface information here.
- City of Franklin Parkfinder Map
- Franklin Bicentennial Park
Trailhead and Harpeth River Greenway
- Harpeth River Canoe Access Points
- The Park at Harlinsdale Farm
Not just for dog lovers, but you can take your dog for a walk or to the dog park in this lovely old horse farm. Also, the farm setting and old barn make it a popular spot for photographing your favorite subject.
- Aspen Grove Park
So you work in Cool Springs and just need a quiet place to eat your lunch and take a short walk? With its 1/2 mile trail and pavilion, this little park, tucked away off Aspen Grove drive, is the perfect midday getaway.
- The Skate Plaza at Jim Warren Park
Take your kids to skate, or just sit and watch the amazing teenage skateboarders show off their skills.
- Westhaven Lake, Highway 96 West
Open to the public and the fishing is easy. Speaking from personal experience, this is a great place to teach your child or grandchild to fish. The lake is full of bream, or sunfish, and they practically jump onto your hook before it hits the water. Please note that Westhaven Lake is catch and release only. Bring your fishing gloves so that you can remove hooks and release the fish safely back into the water.
- Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary, Brentwood
By reservation only, for nature and wildlife lovers. There is a free hike day scheduled each month. Go online or call to get information about nature classes and interpretive hikes.
- Franklin Farmer’s Market
For the freshest and most local food, you can’t beat the open air Franklin Farmer’s Market, open on Saturday mornings at the Factory in Franklin.
- Concerts in the Park
Want to enjoy some amazing music under the stars on summer nights?
Summer concerts at Crockett Park’s Eddy Arnold Amphitheatre and Franklin’s Carnton Plantation.
- Lawnchair Theatre, Leiper’s Fork
Fun for the whole family!
- Williamson County Parks
- Franklin City Parks
- Brentwood City Parks
Not free, but lots of fun!
- Segway Guided Tour of Franklin
I can’t wait to try this!
- Pedego your way around Franklin!
Pedego rents electric bikes by the hour. Located at First and Main, what are you waiting for?
- Paddle Dog Adventures at Westhaven Lake
Boat and paddle board rentals. Have you tried paddle board yoga? You can, now! See their Facebook page for special events and schedules.
By Sharon Reily, Reference Department
You may have recently read distressing headlines predicting mass extinctions of species of animals and plants. Most alarming is the U.N.’s new report on biodiversity and ecosystems asserting that up to 1 million species of plants and animals are now threatened with extinction, some within decades, including 40% of all amphibians, 33% of marine mammals, and another 33% of shark, shark relatives and reef-forming corals. Since May is Endangered Species Month, this is a good time to explore where information on endangered species comes from. Who collects and analyzes the data? Who decides which plants and animals make it onto the endangered list? What is the processing for getting on the list? Once an animal is added to the list, who determines what steps are required to protect it? Which animals are currently considered to be in the most danger, and which threatened animals are making a comeback?
The Endangered Species Act
In the 1960s, due to hunting, habitat loss and use of the toxic pesticide DDT, the bald eagle had suffered a drastic decrease in population that left only 417 breeding pairs accounted for. In 1966, public outcry over the decline of our national bird and other animals motivated Congress to pass the Endangered Species Preservation Act. The Act eventually evolved into The Endangered Species Act (ESA), which was signed into law in 1973 by President Richard Nixon. The bald eagle was one of the first animals protected by the ESA.
The ESA is our nation’s most powerful tool for protecting wildlife. Its purpose is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The ESA is administered by the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (responsible for terrestrial and freshwater organisms) and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service (responsible for marine wildlife such as whales and also fish like the salmon that live in the sea and migrate to fresh water to breed).
Under the ESA, a species can be listed as “endangered” or “threatened.” An “endangered” species is in danger of extinction while a “threatened” species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. All species of plants and animals, except for pest insects, are eligible to be listed in both categories. Currently, 1471 animals and 947 plants species are on the ESA’s endangered list.
The ESA lists species as endangered or threatened based on five factors:
- Damage or destruction to their habitat
- Overutilization of the species for commercial, recreational, scientific or educational purposes
- Disease or predation
- Inadequacy of existing protection
- Other natural or manmade factors that effect a species’ continued existence
Numerous other organizations monitor and report on endangered species, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Center for Biological Diversity. They don’t have the regulatory powers of the ESA, but they do provide valuable information used by the ESA and other conservationists.
Animals and plants can be added to the endangered list in one of two ways. Either biologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service add candidates based on the findings of their own assessments, or they respond to a public petition. Under the act, anyone can submit a written petition, and must be notified within 90 days whether the request warrants further research, which must be completed within a year. Thirty days after a listing is added, it becomes effective.
Once a species is on the list as either endangered or threatened, the ESA protects it and its habitat by prohibiting interstate or international trade and “take” of the listed animal. Take means “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect” a member of the species. Listed plants are not protected from take, although it is illegal to collect or harm them on Federal land. They’re also protected from commercial trade.
The Endangered Species
The ESA and other conservation organizations haven’t been able to save every species. Three species of birds went extinct in 2018 – two songbirds from Brazil (the Cryptic Treehunter and the Alagoas Foliage-gleaner) and the Po’ouli from Hawaii.
Nearing extinction are the vaquitas (a small dolphin-like porpoise), the northern white rhino, and the red wolf. Only 30 vaquitas remain in the world. The last male northern white rhino died at a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya last March, and only two females are left. In the U.S., only 40 endangered red wolves remain in the wild and they could become extinct in the next 8 years.
Other endangered species are well known:
- Amur Leopard
- Cross River Gorillas and Mountain Gorillas
- Hawksbill and the Leatherback Sea Turtles
- Sumatran Orangutan
- Sumatran Elephant
- Saola (an antelope-like animal discovered in Vietnam in 1992)
- Black Rhino, Javan Rhino and Sumatran Rhino
- Pangolin (Scaly Anteater)
In April the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it is considering adding giraffes to its endangered list and will begin an in-depth review that can take several years.
But there is also encouraging news. While only 39 species have been declared fully recovered in the ESA’s 46-year history, scientists estimate at least 300 species would have been lost to extinction without the law. According to the National Resources Defense Council, 99 percent of the species granted protection under the act have managed to survive until today.
Some of the success stories include:
- Bald Eagles: recovered from less than 500 breeding pairs to nearly 70,000 birds today.
- Humpback Whales: increased in such numbers that in most habitats, they’ve been delisted.
- Grizzly Bears: numbers are still low, but they’re beginning to rebound thanks to aggressive conservation efforts.
- Florida Manatees: population has increased to the point that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in 2017 that the mammals had been downlisted from Endangered to Threatened on the list.
- California Condors: there are now over 400 birds, up from only 23 in 1982.
- Grey Wolves: starting to make a comeback.
- Whooping Cranes: still endangered with only 800 living today, but the numbers were once in the 20s.
- Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep: after being added to the list, the bighorn has come back from the brink of extinction. Its population is slowly on the rise, although it is still endangered.
In addition, the American peregrine falcon, Eggert’s sunflower, and the red kangaroo have recovered enough to be delisted, meaning they’re no longer in danger.
For more details on specific species and to find out how you might be able to help or get involved, check out the websites of these conservation organizations:
- Center for Biological Diversity: https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/
- National Audubon Society: https://www.audubon.org
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): https://www.iucn.org/
- The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): https://www.nrdc.org
- The Sierra Club: https://www.sierraclub.org
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF): https://www.worldwildlife.org
If you’d like to learn more about the ESA and endangered species, see the attached sampling of books available at WCPL. Read the rest of this entry