Definitions & Laws

The Endangered Species Act

"When Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973, it recognized that our rich natural heritage is of 'esthetic, ecological, educational, recreational, and scientific value to our Nation and its people.' It further expressed concern that many of our nation’s native plants and animals were in danger of becoming extinct.

The purpose of the ESA is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. It is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The FWS has primary responsibility for terrestrial and freshwater organisms, while the responsibilities of NMFS are mainly marine wildlife such as whales and anadromous fish such as salmon."

-U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

What is "Rare," "Threatened" and "Endangered"?

The Natural Heritage Database includes rare Michigan plants and animals that meet federal and state definitions of endangered, or threatened species.

"Endangered" indicates the species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

"Threatened" indicates the species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.

The database also includes species designated as a "Candidate" or "Partial Status" under federal guidelines.

The Michigan designation of "Special Concern," indicates declining or relict species in the state. While not protected by law, these species need protection to prevent them from becoming Threatened or Endangered.

Those species designated as "Presumed Extirpated" are assumed to have been annihilated.

Federal and State Laws to Protect Specific Species

Michigan and Federal laws protect designated species. The laws specify governmental responsibility for conservation, protection, restoration, and propagation of endangered and threatened species, and form the basis for policies to guide public and private activities that have the potential to impact these species.

For more information, see:

State Listing Update

On March 20, 2023, Michigan’s updated threatened and endangered species list went into effect. The updated list was developed using recommendations made by volunteer Technical Advisory Committees (TACs) consisting of academics, MNFI, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) staff and other experts. There are TACs for Birds, Fish, Herptiles, Insects, Mammals, Mollusks, and Plants. With the list updated by recommendations from these committees, MDNR then hosts a public hearing and opens the draft document for a 30-day public comment period. After the public comment period closes, the process moves into the rulemaking phase of the list update. A draft ruleset in submitted to the bipartisan legislative Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR). Once the rulemaking process is complete the final step of this process is submission for Certificate of Adoption and Filing with the Office of the Great Seal. The goal is to review the Michigan list every 10 years.

Note: MDNR's list of threatened and endangered species list on their website does not include updates to species of special concern. Special concern species are reviewed by the TACs and MNFI then incorporates those recommendations into the lists put out by MNFI. MNFI’s lists include both State and Federal status listings and Special Concern species on one list.

Download List of Updates