What is known as the Endangered Species Act began in mid-1960. In order for the Fish and Wildlife Service to expand their efforts to protect endangered species, Congress enacted the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966. This Act did little more than allow a list of endangered species to be made. The Act did not prohibit the killing of endangered species or the destruction of their habitat.
The lack of legal protection for the endangered species led the Fish and Wildlife Service to convince Congress to enact a second endanger species act called the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969. This law prohibited the commercial trade of wildlife and wildlife products, but did not prohibit the killing of endangered species. The 1969 law led to the United States holding and international meeting in 1972 where the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (“CITES”) was drafted. The CITES treaty only dealt with the trade of endangered species, but it brought attention to the bigger issues that have caused their endangerment.
With environmental concern growing, both Congress and the Nixon administration were put on the task of expanding legislation to protect endangered species. (Bean, 2009). The implementation of the first Earth Day helped bring momentum to other environmental laws, including amendments to the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, and in 1973, The Endangered Species Act. (Bean, 2009). Having had only a few amendments in 1978, 1982, and 1988, the Endangered Species Act has essentially remained the same since 1973. There are two primary agencies that enforce the Endangered Species Act’s regulations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for the protection of land animals and freshwater animals, while NOAA is responsible for all marine species. With that being said, the Secretary of Agriculture has the responsibility of enforcing laws relating to the import and export of species, and the Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing criminal aspects of the Act and defending the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA when the laws are challenged in court.
The joint regulations of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior and National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Commerce comprise the committee that write the regulations which can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations. Many of the key points of the Endangered Species Act can be found in Title 50 of the Code. For example, Section 4 explains the determinations of endangered species, provides for listing in the register, and planning for critical habitat planning. Section 6 in the code requires cooperation within the States and authorizes grants to states and landowners and Section 7 requires interagency cooperation, in which federal agencies are required to avoid jeopardizing or modifying the habitat of listed species. Section 9 prohibits the “take” or killing of a listed species and section 10 provides exceptions to the take prohibitions of Section 9.
Then we have section 11, which explains penalties and enforcement of illegal “take” of a listed species and citizen suit provisions. (Matsumoto, 2003) In Texas, endangered plants and animals are protected under the authority of State law through the Texas Parks and Wildlife and/or under federal law with the Endangered Species Act. Animals that are in trouble throughout its range, which may cover several states, are listed federally and are protected by the Endangered Species Act. (TPW, n.d.). Examples of animals included on the federal list are the black-capped vireo, the golden cheeked warbler, and the Texas poppy mallow. Endangered animals can also be listed on the state endangered list, which means they are only endangered within the Texas borders. Animals such as the Texas horned lizard and the Texas Kangaroo Rat are protected under state law.
The protection of ecosystems is extremely important and extinction of plants and animals points to more significant problems in the environment. Our ecosystem is like a spider web, where each strand in the web are held together by animals, plants, nutrients, water, and air. When strands are taken away, it weakens the web until it eventually falls apart. The fact is, we have already lost the majority of the large animals in Texas, but with the Landowner Incentive Program , Texas Parks and Wildlife gives grants to landowners to encourage the protection of state and federally listed species.
There are many benefits to the Endangered Species Act. The ESA has protected the bald eagle, the California condor, and the Florida manatee, among others. According to “Defenders of Wildlife” (n.d.), “less than one percent of the more than 2,000 plants and animals protected by the Act worldwide have ever been formerly delisted due to extinction”. The Endangered Species Act benefits people by maintaining natural systems that provide us with water, food, clean air, and medicine. It also helps preserve the aesthetics of the environment by preserving the experience of seeing species roaming in their natural habitat. While most people support the conservation of species, there are many that feel restrictions on land use of protected habitats has a negative impact on businesses and tourism, resulting in loss of jobs.
Growing population means more land is needed to support that growth, restricted land use means less property for urbanization or industrial growth. Also, many of the listed endangered species occur on private land, restricting the landowner’s use of their own property. Cost is another source of conflict with the Endangered Species Act. Large amounts of money are spent in order to aid in the recovery of endangered animals, an example of this would be with the recovery of the California condor. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent on recovery programs in the past 2-3 decades and currently, five million every year is spent in aiding their recovery.
I believe the Endangered Species Act contains laws that are adequate to achieve its conservation purpose. Laws are in place to protect species on the verge of extinction and because of the protection from the ESA, iconic species such as bald eagles, gray wolves and grizzly bears were able rebound and recover. Without the ESA we could potentially lose species that are vital to our ecosystem and our existence
Bean, M.J. (2009, April). The endangered species act: science, policy, and politics. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences,1162(), 369-91.
Defenders of Wildlife. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.defenders.org/endangered-species-act/endangered-species-act Matsumoto, S., Pike, C., Turner, T., and Wan, R. (2003). Citizen’s Guide to the Endangered Species Act . : Earth Justice. Texas Parks and Wildlife. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/landwater/land/habitats/cross_timbers/endangered_species/ Walters, J. R., Derrickson, S. R., & Fry, M. (2008). Status of the California Condor and Efforts to Achieve its Recovery
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