Iowa has changed greatly since becoming a state in 1846. The prairies that helped develop the highly productive soils have been reduced by more than 99 percent. About 95 percent of the state's prairie pothole wetlands have been drained. Over half of the original forest has been lost. These changes and other factors such as channelization of streams and rivers, soil erosion, development and urban expansion, and intensive row crop agriculture have contributed to the loss or degradation of suitable habitat for numerous plant and animal species.
Individual species of plants and animals may contribute to the survival of other species within a community. The loss of what appears to be an unimportant species may result in the decline or loss of species that we consider to be very important. If we ignore species that are in danger of being extirpated from Iowa, we may be making decisions that cannot be reversed in the future. Conserving these species for future generations requires the coordinated effort by public agencies, private organizations, and property owners.
Iowa's endangered and threatened species law was enacted in 1975. The current law, entitled Endangered Plants and Wildlife is Chapter 481B of the Code of Iowa. The Natural Resource Commission and the Director of the Department of Natural Resources are responsible for administration of Chapter 481B.
Current list of endangered, threatened, and special concern species:
571 IAC chapter 77.2: List of Animals
571 IAC chapter 77.3: List of Plants
Federal Endangered Species Program (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
Living On The Edge: Profiles of Federally Listed Species in Iowa
Environmental Review for Natural Resources
Natural Areas Inventory
Endangered Species means any species of fish, plant life, or wildlife which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant part of its range. Protected by law.
Threatened Species means any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Protected by law.
Special Concern means any species about which problems of status or distribution are suspected, but not documented. Not protected by the Iowa Threatened and Endangered Species law, but many animal species listed as Special Concern are protected under other state and federal laws addressing hunting, fishing, collecting, and harvesting.
Chapter 481B of the Code of Iowa authorizes the Commission to:
- Cooperate with the federal government in the conservation, protection, and artificial propagation of endangered and threatened species.
- Designate a state list of endangered and threatened species by rule (Iowa Administrative Code  Chapter 77).
- Review the state list at least every two years for possible changes.
The Director of the Department of Natural Resources is authorized to:
- Conduct investigations to collect information about listed species for their conservation and management.
- Establish programs, including purchase of habitats, for the management of listed species.
- Allow the capture, possession, sale, or purchase of listed species for scientific, education, or rehabilitation purposes, for propagation in captivity to ensure the survival of a species (Iowa Administrative Code  Chapter 111).
- Permit taking upon showing good cause where necessary to reduce damage to property or to protect human health.
Penalties for Unlawful Taking of Threatened or Endangered Species
Violations of the provisions of Chapter 481B for threatened or endangered species are misdemeanors punishable by a fine of up to $100. In addition to the misdemeanor penalty, a person convicted of unlawfully selling, taking, catching, killing, injuring, destroying, or having in possession any animal listed as threatened or endangered is required to reimburse the state $1,000 per listed animal. (Section 481A.130 of the Code of Iowa).