Established in 1973, the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) allows for both public and scientific scrutiny of the petitioning process that determines which species are added to the national list of protected species.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the ESA has a stellar success rate: 99 percent of species listed on it have avoided extinction. “Viewed as the gold standard for conservation legislation, the ESA is one of the world’s most effective laws for preventing and reversing the decline of endangered and threatened wildlife.”
If Congress or the Trump Administration cripple the ESA, the U.S. would lose its most powerful — and in some cases only — tool to save species from extinction.
The humpback whale was added to the endangered list in 1970, but by 2016 nine of the 14 distinct populations are now considered recovered and have been delisted. Bald eagles were listed as endangered in 43 of the lower 48 states from 1967 until 1995, and then listed as threatened in all lower 48 states from 1995 until 2007. But on June 28, 2007, they were removed from the list of threatened and endangered species at a ceremony at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The present debate over the status of Yellowstone’s grizzly bears, listed as threatened in the lower 48 states since 1975, illustrates the effectiveness of the ESA in fostering debate over when threatened species are considered fully recovered.
Similarly, the black-footed ferret was added to the list in 1967. Its present status is endangered but recovering. This species declined to almost complete extinction due to loss of habitat and prey, but the establishment of “captive breeding programs and reintroduction of black-footed ferrets [have] facilitate[d] recovery. There are now close to 400 individuals in the wild” (WWF).
We cannot replace lost biodiversity with profit-driven, socioeconomic gains. All God’s creatures eventually die, but let’s not allow our materially driven instincts to weaken regulations that protect endangered species. Tell President Trump and Congress to not modify the ESA.
Ronald Francis David Hunt,
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