We have seen species of wildlife come and go from the endangered species list since the act was passed unanimously in 1973 but how much do we really know about it, especially now that efforts toward environmental protection are being challenged by the Trump administration?
In simplest terms, the Endangered Species Act or ESA protects animal, insect, and plant species from becoming extinct in the United States and around the world, and protection extends to the habitat and ecosystem they thrive in.
Endangered Species Act
The ESA was signed into law in 1973, during the Nixon administration, in order to conserve and protect the thinning population of wildlife because of disease or predation, commercial, recreational, and scientific over-consumption, threat from man-made factors, and habitat destruction.
The ESA established two designations under the endangered species list: endangered and threatened. Endangered species are plants and wildlife whose population has been severely depleted and are likely to become extinct in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, threatened species are those that are likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.
Implementation of the ESA ranged from listing endangered and threatened species to taking legal actions in order to save listed species and designate or preserve critical habitats. One example of this is the Supreme Court's recent decision to designate 120 million acres of the Arctic ice shelf as a critical polar bear habitat.
Endangered Species List
When the ESA was in its first years, only about 80 animal species were considered in need of human protection; however, decades of commercialization prompted a chain reaction that put more animal species at risk of extinction.
At present, there are approximately 2,392 species that are considered threatened or endangered and, among the listed species, 1,447 are vertebrate and invertebrate animals while 945 are plants. One of the more recent additions to the list is the rusty patched bumblebee, whose population has significantly dropped for unknown reasons.
More people nowadays seem to have recognized the need for animal conservation but it's only the beginning. Old traditions for rites of passage, private recreation, and commercial and industrial production, as well as willful ignorance on the plight of wildlife continue to hinder conservation efforts.
Reports say only about 70 protected species under the ESA have made a full recovery so opponents of this law consider it ineffective. The ESA is also in rough waters under the Trump administration since the Republican Party agrees that it is too restrictive for business and has pushed for changes.
We can only hope that, no matter what happens to the ESA, efforts for conservation will continue in order to avoid the extinction of more species.