Endangered Species Act has protected imperiled species and critical habitats since 1973

Photograph of a wolf from the Prospeck Peak pack in Yellowstone National Park, 2017,  by Beth Phillips 

In 1972, President Nixon declared that conservation efforts in the United States aimed toward preventing the extinction of species were inadequate and called on the 93rd Congress to develop comprehensive endangered species legislation. Congress responded, and on December 28th, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 was signed into law. USF&WS

Wolves were first listed in 1967 in what became known as the precursor to the Endangered Species Act.  Then, in 1978 Gray wolves are listed at the species level under the Endangered Species Act as endangered throughout the coterminous United States and Mexico, except in Minnesota, where gray wolves were listed as threatened. HSUS

Did you know that federal protections of endangered species started with the Lacy Act of 1900? 

According to USF&WS, Congress passed the first wildlife law in response to growing public concern over the decline of the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius). 

The last Passenger Pigeon, named Martha died over a 100 years ago.

Martha at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.
The ESA of 1973 was a real life saver for imperiled species, such as; the Timber Wolf – Canis lupus lycaon, Red Wolf – Canis niger and the Grizzly Bear – Ursus horribilis, to name a few of the first hundred or so of animals placed on the list. To view the full list of mammals, reptiles & amphibians, birds and fishes placed on the ESL go to USF&WS website.

For almost two centuries, American gray wolves, vilified in fact as well as fiction, were the victims of vicious government extermination programs. By the time the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, only a few hundred of these once-great predators were left in the lower 48 states.  ~Lydia Millet

A History of the Endangered Species Act of 1973

Congress passed the Endangered Species Preservation Act in 1966, providing a means for listing native animal species as endangered and giving them limited protection. The Departments of Interior, Agriculture, and Defense were to seek to protect listed species, and, insofar as consistent with their primary purposes, preserve the habitats of such species. The Act also authorized the Service to acquire land as habitat for endangered species. In 1969, Congress amended the Act to provide additional protection to species in danger of “worldwide extinction” by prohibiting their importation and subsequent sale in the United States. This Act called for an international meeting to adopt a convention to conserve endangered species. One amendment to the Act changed its title to the Endangered Species Conservation Act. USF&WS

A curious bald eagle; official national bird of the United States (licensed image from BigStockPhoto). All State Birds

The bald eagle, one of the first species to receive protections under the precursor to the Endangered Species Act in 1967, has been removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced the delisting of the bald eagle at a ceremony on Thursday, June 28, 2007, on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. After decades of conservation efforts, the bald eagle has exhibited a dramatic recovery, from a low of barely 400 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states in 1963, to nearly 10,000 nesting pairs today. The recovery and delisting of the nation’s symbol marks a major achievement in conservation. USF&WS

Defining Endangered Species Act of 1973. The following is from USF&WS website:

Later that year, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act of 1973. It
defined “endangered” and “threatened” [section 3];

-made plants and all invertebrates eligible for protection [section 3];

-applied broad “take” prohibitions to all endangered animal species and allowed the prohibitions to apply to threatened animal species by special regulation [section 9];

-required Federal agencies to use their authorities to conserve listed species and consult on “may affect” actions [section 7];

-prohibited Federal agencies from authorizing, funding, or carrying out any action that would jeopardize a listed species or destroy or modify its “critical habitat” [section 7];

-made matching funds available to States with cooperative agreements [section 6];

Photograph of Grizzly Bear by John E Marriott

Endangered Species Act is a success for all the imperiled species and critical habitats it protects.  

From 1973 to 2013, the Act prevented extinction 99 for percent of species under its protection. The Act has shown a 90 percent recovery rate in more than 100 species throughout the United States.The Act has allowed the designation of millions of acres of critical habitat, which is crucial to species’ survival and recovery. In fact, imperiled species with federally protected protected critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering as those without. From Center for Biological Diversity, ESA facts

The purpose of the ESA

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 anadromons fish such as salmon. USF&WS website

Under the ESA, species may be listed as either endangered or threatened. “Endangered” means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. “Threatened” means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. All species of plants and animals, except pest insects, are eligible for listing as endangered or threatened. For the purposes of the ESA, Congress defined species to include subspecies, varieties, and, for vertebrates, distinct population segments. USF&WS website

As a young boy, I was obsessed with endangered species and the extinct species that men killed off. Biology was the subject in school that I was incredibly passionate about. Leonardo DiCaprio

Keeping imperiled species such as the Gray wolf protected is an ongoing battle 

“One of the giants of environmentalism, Aldo Leopold, wrote about the “fierce green fire” he saw in a wolf’s eyes. I think what he was really talking about is wildness. For many people, the wolf is a symbol of wildness in our remaining wilderness. And for that reason, wolves are especially beloved by many people—they capture so much about the wild spirit that still is attractive to us. Despite our heavily developed and urbanized society, we still are attracted to that element of the wild that’s been with us through the millennia.”  ~Earthjustice

DIANE PAPINEAU / NATIONAL PARK SERVICE Schoolchildren at Yellowstone’s Roosevelt Arch welcome a truck transporting wolves, January 1995.
“The Endangered Species Act may be heading for the threatened list. This hearing confirmed it. A Senate hearing to “modernize the Endangered Species Act” unfolded Wednesday just as supporters of the law had feared, with round after round of criticism from Republican lawmakers who said the federal effort to keep species from going extinct encroaches on states’ rights, is unfair to landowners and stymies efforts by mining companies to extract resources and create jobs.”

“The two-hour meeting of the Environment and Public Works Committee was led by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who said last month that his focus in a bid to change the act would be “eliminating a lot of the red tape and the bureaucratic burdens that have been impacting our ability to create jobs,” according to a report in Energy and Environment News.”  From the Washington Post February 2017 

Watch USF&WS’s video about the 40 year old Endangered Species Act


Contact your members in congress and tell them to keep the Endangered Species Act in tact, because; 

Endangered Species Act is a success for all the imperiled species and critical habitats it protects.  

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