Conservation Crossroads

Defenders launches a new campaign to accelerate endangered species recovery.

Robert Dewey, Vice President of Government Relations

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), so we should all be celebrating its many successes. But don’t get too carried away—we need your help now more than ever.

Bald eagle in flight_us_military

Bald eagles were nearly wiped out in the 1970s due to the harmful effects of the pesticide DDT. Photo courtesy US Military

In the 1960s, America stood at a crossroads. Our rivers were polluted, our skies were choked with smog, and hundreds of species were on the brink of extinction. As a result, concerned citizens from coast to coast came together to demand stronger environmental protections. Politicians in Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, responded by giving overwhelming approval for the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act. Then, on Dec. 28, 1973, President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act.

Since then, Defenders has been a leading champion for the Act and all our nation’s most vulnerable plants and animals. We have fought in Congress to adequately fund the ESA, battled efforts to weaken it, advocated ways to make it more effective for wildlife and people, and, when necessary, gone to court to defend it.

Our staff and committed volunteers have worked tirelessly in support of this landmark law, and we have done so for good reason. The ESA has been incredibly effective in rescuing species from extinction. Only 10 out of more than 2,000 listed species have been formally declared extinct – a success rate of more than 99 percent! Moreover, many iconic species, such as the bald eagle, American alligator, peregrine falcon and brown pelican have made impressive recoveries—so impressive that federal protections for those species have been safely removed. These animals were able to make a strong comeback because of our nation’s bipartisan commitment to good stewardship of our natural treasures.

Unfortunately, our nation once again stands at a crossroads. Climate change, habitat loss and reckless energy development all threaten to reverse many of the conservation gains our country has made over the last four decades. Congressional sneak attacks on individual species, frontal assaults on the ESA itself, and severe funding cuts for wildlife conservation all pose profound threats to the continued recovery of imperiled wildlife. If we surrender to these new and significant challenges, hundreds of species will quickly slip closer to extinction, making it even harder to help them recover.

We can and must reinforce our commitment to saving imperiled wildlife. In fact, if we respond effectively to today’s threats, increase federal funding and smartly target those resources, we can significantly boost the number of protected species on the road to recovery. By doing so, we believe that in five years the majority of listed species can be on track for recovery, and many more will follow in the years to come.

US Capitol, FWSBut, as with passage of the ESA itself, no single group has a strong enough voice to achieve this historic conservation goal alone.

That’s why we’re launching our new Conservation Crossroads campaign – to empower wildlife supporters of all stripes to rally together. Our goal is to accelerate the recovery of imperiled species and help concerned citizens share their voice by educating policymakers about actions that must be taken to renew the nation’s commitment to saving wildlife. It’s a simple choice: extinction or recovery?

Endangered wildlife need more champions in Congress, more funding for conservation efforts vital to their survival, and more legislators who will support policies to combat climate change and oppose attempts to weaken the Endangered Species Act.

As we celebrate the ESA’s successes we must also affirm our commitment to conserving wildlife for future generations. There is no better way to do so than by working together to speed recovery efforts for imperiled species. Visit to learn more.