Because I have mentioned it so many times in my previous posts I thought I would take this opportunity to explain one of the biggest victories for wildlife that has happened in the last 100 years. What exactly am I talking about? If you have read my previous posts you probably got it right, the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA started to take shape in 1966 when the US government started to officially set aside money to help endangered species and habitats. Over the next 7 years it evolved into what it is today. The ESA as we know it today was signed into action on December 28th 1973 by Richard Nixon. Possible interesting side note: Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, the same city I was born and raised. The act came about because of the inadequate protection afforded to the wildlife in the United States. As the nation was growing, it started encroaching on many of the native wildlife’s natural habitat. In a rare act of cooperation, scientist and politicians united in an effort to protect wildlife from “economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation” and in a larger picture it was also meant to protect “the ecosystems upon which they depend.” In other words, the goal of the ESA is to prevent the extinction of vulnerable plants and animals and to help maintain the existing populations by removing or lessening threats to their survival. The ESA is administered by two federal agencies, the United States Fish and Wildlife Services and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There are two ways a species can make it onto the ESA list. The first option is goes through one of the two administrations running the program. These administrations require that the species meet one of the following 5 requirements to be listed on the ESA:
1. There is the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range
2. An over utilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes.
3. The species is declining due to disease or predation.
4. There is an inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms.
5. There are other natural or man made factors affecting its continued existence.
The second option is for the public (individual or organization) to create a compelling petition to get a species on the list. Here is a simple break down of the steps:
- The petition presents the situation where a species is in peril a 90 screening begins
- If the information is substantial a official review is started that will last at least 12 months
- If the evidence still shows that the species needs protection a final 12 month period of review is initiated and at the end of the final 12 months a final decision is reached.
Now this 2 year and 3 month process represents the fastest a species can be listed, usually, it takes much longer because of different regulations and process that I will not go into for this article. The latest change to the ESA occurred this year as President Obama singed the Department of Defense and Full-Year Appropriations Act of 2011. This bill had a rider attached to it that gave permission for the grey wolf of the Rocky Mountains to be delisted from the ESA. This represents the first time a species has been delisted without science backing it up and could possibly set a disturbing precedent that could further hamper the recovery of other species. On a more positive note, here are some statistics about the ESA that are more uplifting. Since the inception of the ESA 22 species have been taken off the list due to a healthy recovery. As I am writing this there are currently 587 animals and 795 plans listed in the US under the ESA for a grand total of 1382. Of those 1382, 1136 or them have a recovery plan in place to help increase the species numbers and improve survival rates. If you want to learn more about the Endangered Species Act feel free to click on the links below. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask!