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Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN)

What Are SGCN?

The State Wildlife Grants program provides funds for conservation efforts aimed at preventing fish and wildlife populations from declining, reducing the potential for these species to be listed as endangered. In order to access these grant funds, New York State was required to develop a Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (CWCS) that focuses on the "species of greatest conservation need." This includes those species that are deemed rare, imperiled and those for which status has not been established.

How Are Species Chosen as SGCN?

Species are chosen as SGCN using the following criteria:

  • Species on the current federal list of endangered or threatened species that occur in New York
  • Species that are currently State-listed as endangered, threatened or special concern
  • Species with 20 or fewer elemental occurrences in the New York Natural Heritage Program database
  • Estuarine and marine species of greatest conservation need as determined by New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Marine Resources staff

Based on this criteria, a preliminary list of more than 500 species was compiled. Subsequent consultation with the public and revision by DEC staff produced a list of 537 species of greatest conservation need. The list of species is certainly not exhaustive, but includes those species for which systematic assessments had been made by staff of the NYSDEC Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources and the New York Natural Heritage Program. Some species were eliminated because there was no clear conservation need, such as those species extirpated long ago, those that are rare but expanding their range in New York, and introduced species.

Other species were added to the list based on information from other sources, including:

  • The Nature Conservancy Natureserve Explorer
  • NYSDEC Staff experts added to the list after considering information on status, distribution and vulnerability to various threats; disease and unregulated harvest.
  • The ecosystem approach to this conservation plan necessitated that species in neighboring states be included and some of those identified in Therres (1999) Wildlife Species of Regional Conservation Concern in the Northeastern United States were included.

The final list, presented here, will serve several purposes. The conservation needs of all species on this list (and other species for which New York has long-term stewardship responsibility) will be addressed in the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. We will consider the needs of species on this list as we identify and select work for current and future SWG funding. Additionally, the list may be used for prioritizing or directing other conservation programs in New York, including habitat protection and management, surveys, and research that may be funded from other sources such as the Environmental Protection Fund, Conservation Fund, Landowner Incentives Program, Farm Bill, North American Wetlands Conservation Act and traditional federal aid (Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson funds).

Codes Used in Species Lists/Tables

The following codes are used in the various species tables.

Listing Status:

  • E/T/SC indicates if State-listed as Endangered, Threatened or Special Concern.
  • (E)/(T)/(C) indicates if federally-listed as Endangered, Threatened or Candidate for listing.

NE Concern:

"X" indicates if species was listed as Wildlife Species of Regional Conservation concern in the Northeastern United States (Therres, 1999)

Heritage S-rank: state rank by NY Natural Heritage Program indicated as follows:

S1 - typically 5 or fewer occurrences
S2 - typically 6-20 occurrences
S3 - typically 21 - 100 occurrences
S4 - apparently secure in NYS
S5 - demonstrably secure in NYS
SA - accidental species
SH - historically known from NYS, but not seen in the past 15 years
SX - apparently extirpated from NYS
SR - reported to occur in NYS, but no specific locations documented
SU - species unrankable due to uncertainty about number of occurrences
SZ - species occurs in NYS, but generally not in specific locations
S? - species not evaluated yet
NR - not rated yet
Modifiers - (B) signifies that the species breeds instate, (N) signifies it does not breed instate

Other rankings:

  • Audubon Watch List: "WL" indicates bird species included on the 2002 National Audubon Society Watchlist
  • Partners in Flight Concern Species: "PIF" indicates bird species ranked by Partners in Flight
  • Shorebird Plan: "SP" indicates bird species ranked as "Highly Imperiled" or "Species of High Concern" for one or more regions of the northeastern U.S. in the United States Shorebird Conservation Plan (Brown et al. 2001)
  • DEC Staff Judgement: "DEC" indicates species added to the list based on professional judgement of appropriate NYSDEC staff experts

"Species of Greatest Conservation Need" in New York State

View Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (CWCS) Plan, Appendix D: Species of Greatest Conservation Need

Some of the major threats to New York Fish and Wildlife


  • Contaminants, pesticides
  • Illegal or unregulated harvest
  • Degraded habitat
  • Entanglement, entrainment, impingement, electrocution
  • Isolated populations

Crustacea/ Meristomata

  • Degradation of water quality
  • Sedimentation, erosion
  • Contaminants, pesticides
  • Disease
  • Climate change

Freshwater Fish

  • Competition from introduced species
  • Sedimentation, erosion
  • Altered hydrology of waterways
  • Degradation of water quality
  • Loss of habitat


  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Contaminants, pesticides
  • Disease
  • Illegal or unregulated harvest
  • Degradation of water quality


  • Contaminants, pesticides
  • Habitat loss and fragmentation
  • Other human disturbances
  • Loss of streamside buffers
  • Sedimentation, erosion


  • Habitat loss
  • Disease
  • Human disturbance
  • Competition for life support
  • Altered hydrology

Marine fish

  • Illegal or unregulated harvest
  • Entanglement, entrainment
  • Climate change
  • Contaminants, pesticides
  • Degradation of water quality


  • Isolated populations
  • Competition from introduced species
  • Disturbed predator/ prey cycles
  • Habitat loss
  • Degradation of water quality

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