Bald Eagle, © Ron Holmes/USFWS

Happy 38th Birthday, ESA!

We almost missed it…38 years and one day ago, the Endangered Species Act was signed into law by President Nixon after receiving strong bipartisan support from members of Congress. Since then, the Act has been one of the most effective and important environmental laws. In nearly four decades, fewer than a dozen species have gone extinct, and most of those were already doomed before the law went into effect. Hundreds more have been rescued from the brink of extinction, including iconic animals such as the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, American alligator and gray wolf.

Julia Whitty at Mother Jones published a nice homage with a list of endangered species (cribbed from Wikipedia) that have increased their numbers substantially while under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Here’s a partial list:

  • Bald Eagle (increased from 417 to 11,040 pairs between 1963 and 2007); removed from list 2007
  • Whooping Crane (increased from 54 to 436 birds between 1967 and 2003)
  • Peregrine Falcon (increased from 324 to 1,700 pairs between 1975 and 2000); removed from list
  • Gray Wolf (populations increased dramatically in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes)
  • Gray Whale (increased from 13,095 to 26,635 whales between 1968 and 1998); removed from list
  • Grizzly bear (increased from about 271 to over 580 bears in the Yellowstone area between 1975 and 2005);
  • California’s Southern Sea Otter (increased from 1,789 in 1976 to 2,735 in 2005)
  • Black-Footed Ferret (increased from 18 in 1986 to 600 in 2006)

Julia also included this beautiful video from Defenders’ board member and award-winning National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore:

RARE from Joel Sartore on Vimeo.

Thanks to all our supporters who have helped us defend and protect endangered species over the years. We hope you will take this opportunity to reflect on all the wonderful plants and animals that make up the web of life that sustains us all!

Just remember, the battle isn’t over yet. Nearly 2,000 species remain protected under the Endangered Species Act, yet some members of Congress have been trying to dismantle our nation’s safety net for saving imperiled wildlife. But don’t just take our word for it. A story today from Rob Hotakainen with McClatchy’s DC bureau appeared in papers across the country from the Miami Herald to the Seattle Times, outlining pending legislative hearings on the Act from House Republicans.

America’s endangered plants and animals will need all the help they can get to survive the coming attacks.