California Condor

California Condor and the Endangered Species Act

Closeup of the faces of two California CondorsThe California condor is classified as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). However, the condor population identified on the Kaibab National Forest has been classified as a §10(j) experimental non-essential population under the ESA as part of a condor reintroduction effort in northern Arizona that was initiated in 1996. The 10(j) classification provides considerable management flexibility in the reintroduction area.

California Condor use of the Kaibab National Forest

The California condor primarily occurs within and along the south rim of the Grand Canyon, the Kaibab Plateau on the north side of the Grand Canyon, Marble Canyon, the Vermilion Cliffs, and parts of southern Utah. The Peregrine Fund has extensive radio-tracking data that documents heavy use of the Kaibab Plateau (North Kaibab Ranger District) for travel and forage. While condors are common a few miles to the north along the south rim of the Grand Canyon, birds have rarely been observed on the southern portion of the forest (Tusayan and Williams Ranger Districts). The condor’s primary use of the forest is for dispersal habitat and foraging, however, in recent years successful nesting has occurred. Condors are opportunistic scavengers that feed primarily on large dead mammals such as deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and domestic livestock.

A California Condor bird in flight with wings spread

Southwest Condor Workgroup

The Kaibab National Forest is an active member of the Southwest Condor Workgroup and a cooperating partner on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that establishes a general framework for cooperation and participation among all cooperators to promote the recovery of the California condor. The MOU applies to the Southwest California condor reintroduction program and designated nonessential experimental population with three primary objectives:

  • Support a long-term program to reestablish a viable self-sustaining population of California condors in the southwestern United States through the release of captive-reared individuals, and management of the wild population.

  • Achieve recovery goals for this species as cited in the California Condor Recovery Plan (USFWS 1996), following the current management recommendations established by the California Condor Recovery Team as authorized by the Fish and Wildlife Service, and implement recommendations of the California Condor 5-years review.

  • Address emerging issues through the Southwest Condor Working Group’s representatives of the primary cooperators.

The goal of this program is to promote the recovery of the California condor through long-term cooperative efforts that reestablish a viable and self-sustaining population in the Grand Canyon/Arizona Strip regions of northern Arizona and southern Utah. This collective effort includes more than a dozen cooperative federal, state, tribal, private, and local community partners.

Those partners include:

Arizona Center for
Nature Conservation

Navajo Nation Department of
Fish and Wildlife

Arizona Game and
Fish Department

Phoenix Zoo

Arizona State Offices

The Peregrine Fund

Bureau of Land Management AZ

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Glen Canyon National
Recreation Area

U.S. Forest Service
(including Kaibab N.F.)

Grand Canyon
National Park Service

Utah Division of
Wildlife Resources

Kaibab Band of Paiute of Indians

Utah State Offices

Liberty Wildlife

Zion National Park

Partnership with Arizona Game and Fish Department

The Kaibab National Forest entered into an agreement with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to help support the state’s voluntary lead reduction program. The Arizona Game and Fish Department regulates hunting in the state and actively encourages the use of non-lead ammunition. This voluntary lead reduction program and related hunter education campaign includes free distribution of non-lead ammunition to hunters in the condor range. The voluntary response from Arizona hunters has been between 80 to 90 percent of hunters taking steps to reduce lead available to condors over the past several years. Participation in the program includes a combination of the following lead-reduction actions by hunters: shooting the non-lead ammunition or bagging up and packing out a gut pile.

The Kaibab National Forest also provides logistical and monetary support to the Peregrine Fund to assist with recovery efforts.

Litigation regarding the California Condor

The Forest Service is involved in ongoing litigation regarding the California condor.

  • On March 31, 2021, the District Court of Arizona again ruled in favor of the defendants (United States Forest Service) and issued an order dismissing the case. ORDER.

  • On April 20, 2017, the plaintiffs filed a second appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

  • On March 15, 2017, the District Court of Arizona again ruled in favor of the defendants (United States Forest Service) and issued an order dismissing the case. ORDER.

  • On March 10, 2016, the Ninth Circuit issued a decision reversing and remanding the case back to the District Court of Arizona. DECISION.

  • On August 21, 2013, the plaintiffs filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

  • On July 2, 2013, the District Court granted the government's motion to dismiss the complaint.

  • On September 5, 2012, a lawsuit - Center for Biological Diversity, et al. v. United States Forest Service (Case No: 3:12-cv-8176GMS) - was originally filed in Federal District Court in Arizona. LAWSUIT.

Additional information

For additional information and documents related to the California condor in Arizona, please visit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service California condor.