California condor

California condor and the Endangered Species Act

The 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). There have been no known successful nesting attempts on the Kaibab National Forest. The condor’s primary use of the forest is for dispersal habitat and foraging; condors are opportunistic scavengers that feed primarily on large dead mammals such as deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and domestic livestock.

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-year reviews.
  • 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: The Peregrine Fund, Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service (including the Kaibab National Forest), Bureau of Land Management Arizona and Utah State Offices, National Park Service, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Kaibab Band of Paiute of Indians, Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Arizona Center for Nature Conservation, and the Phoenix Zoo.

Partnership with Arizona Game and Fish Department

In August 2012, 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.

  • 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 on Sept. 5, 2012.
  • In an order dated July 2, 2013, the District Court granted the government's motion to dismiss the complaint.
  • On Aug. 21, 2013, the plaintiffs filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • The Ninth Circuit issued a decision on March 10, 2016, reversing and remanding the case back to the District Court of Arizona.
  • 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.
  • The plaintiffs filed a second appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on April 20, 2017.
  • On May 30, 2019, the Ninth Circuit issued a decision reversing the District Court’s ruling and remanding the case back to District Court. A decision in this case is still pending.

Additional information

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