Bald eagle, © Susan Panutso

The Endangered Species Act Turns 43

President Nixon declared that, “Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed,” as he signed the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) into law on December 28 at the cusp of the New Year.

Today is the 43rd anniversary of the signing of the ESA into law and it is a good day to pause and reflect on what is and isn’t working with endangered species protections in the United States.

The ESA Prevents Wildlife Extinctions (and Extinction is Forever!)

What is working, for one, is the ESA itself; it has been 99 percent effective at preventing species from being lost from our natural heritage forever. It has also recovered iconic species such as the bald eagle, the peregrine falcon, the American alligator and the California condor.

The ESA not only prevents individual species from going extinct, but also ensures America’s long-term prosperity by safeguarding critical wildlife habitat and creating a healthy environment. People rely on plants and animals for medicine, jobs, recreation, clean water and abundant natural resources.

We can coexist with Wolves and Grizzlies and Panthers and More!

What’s also working with the ESA is Defenders’ coexistence efforts, where we work to create cultural acceptance for wildlife that are often viewed as a threat to people or livestock. For decades, Defenders of Wildlife has been a leader in working with lawmakers, conservation professionals, local communities and private landowners to develop innovative and effective methods for minimizing conflicts. That dedication to coexistence has helped bring back iconic species such as the grizzly and the gray wolf.

Some in Congress are working to Undermine Wildlife Recovery

What’s not working is that some in Congress have put a target on the ESA and on America’s wildlife heritage. While the 93rd Congress developed the comprehensive legislation, the 114th Congress made 127 attempts to dismantle the ESA and other key wildlife protections. Fortunately, Defenders’ has worked tirelessly to head off these assaults on America’s wildlife and we will not give up.

Although a strong majority of Americans still hold the same conservation values that created the ESA decades ago, unrelenting pressure from various commercial industries and political interests continue to threaten this vital piece of environmental legislation, attempting to override or severely weaken the ESA or slash its funding to a point where it can no longer accomplish its goals.

The Sixth Great Extinction

Yet, the Endangered Species Act is as important today as it was when Richard Nixon signed it into law. According to a study published in Science Advances, species could be going extinct at a pace 100 times higher than normal.  We may now be witnessing the “Sixth Great Extinction” as a result of habitat loss, invasive species and climate change. As more species are found to warrant listing under the ESA, it is more important than ever that this vital tool for wildlife conservation be kept strong, well-funded, and capable of not only preventing extinctions but also able to put imperiled species back on the road to a successful recovery and to create thriving and stable populations.

Racing Extinction with Innovation

We owe it to ourselves and future generations to be good stewards of the environment and leave behind a legacy of protecting endangered species and the special places they call home. The ESA is our cornerstone conservation law for protecting wildlife and special places for generations to come.

Categories: Wildlife

10 Responses to “The Endangered Species Act Turns 43”

    • Ted Reese

      Keep up the fine work NECSSARY for the survival of the world we know and love!

  1. Katharyn Reiser

    Let’s be alert for any threats to the ESA from the new Congress!

  2. Laurie Gray-Wilhelm

    We need to protect wildlife. Give them their freedom. Put them in a habitat of their own away from humans for protection!

  3. Karen westberg

    It is so very important that we do all we can to to save any endangered species — the are unable to save themselves and desperately need us to help and protect them. We are supposed to be their stewards, not their destroyers. It is a great privilege to be able to share God’s Earth with them, and they need us to be there for them, to care about and for them. It is the responsibility of humans to provide them with all they need and to help them have nothing but the best and happiest quality of life.

  4. Gerald Mann

    Animals that are here are meant to be here by our maker , he created them for a reason , and we should not question his judgement . We now know that the water and the trees along with other vegetation give us the oxygen that we need to survive , we also know that a lot of medicines are made from mold spores, and other unlikely sources who knows some species on the verg of extinction may hold the key to human survival !

  5. Glenn

    There is a false narrative circulating among certain members of Congress that the ESA is a failure because only 1% of animals have been removed from the list. We all know this simply is not true and that according to the most recent statistics, 93% of all animals on the list are meeting their target dates. The reality is that only 1% have repopulated enough to be removed because most animal species have been decimated to the point where it will take decades and decades for some to repopulate. We simply must educate Congress that this 1% is a grossly misleading statistic that is being promoted to end the ESA and open protected lands to development and further destruction. Don’t let that happen. Reach out to your representatives and let them know.

You May also be interested in