The Endangered Species Act Pro and Con
Added 22 November 1999, Revised 4 January 2000
This page started out of an e-mail to an e-friend of mine. She was looking for information for a paper she had to write for a class, and I wrote the first page on the ESA for my web site.
With minimal spare time to work with, I don't know how quickly I will be able to add more pages on the ESA, but I will try to make this a good source of information on the ESA. It goes without saying, that I could use some help. If you would like to contribute your own tale or data to this page, it would be greatly appreciated. Or if you know of good sources of information for me to look in, I would appreciate it if you would let me know.
The ESA creates a lot of controversy because people mis-understand it's
true purpose. The Endangered Species Act should really be called the
Endangered Habitat Act. Conservatives complain about the ESA because they see it as putting the life of a single owl or fish or butterfly above the life of a human (or at least the job of a human). That isn't the way it works. When someone goes to save Spotted Owls, he/she is really saving the habitat that the Spotted Owls, and many other animals, need to survive. So the ESA is mis-leading. But it has to be. No one would vote for an endangered habitat act. (or at least it would be harder to pass) Habitats are too broad and difficult to define. Species are easier to quantify and understand.
- Has been successful in bringing a number of species from the brink of extinction
- Makes people think about endangered species (public exposure) (No, not THAT kind of public exposure!)
These were given to me by Mike B.
- has been instrumental in ensuring that many wildlife and plant species have not needed to be listed
as threatened or endangered,
- has provided a science-based impetus for conserving entire watersheds, ecosystems, landscapes,
- has advanced the notion that every living animal and plant is worthy of attention and has some
- has advanced the idea of a national "land ethic" first espoused by Aldo Leopold,
- has led to the education and hiring of more biologists (I am completely serious although biased,
being one myself).
- Sometimes large sums of money are spent saving species that are so rare that the replenished species doesn't have the genetic variability to be viable on it's own. (The California Condor is a good example of this. The condor is a leftover from the an era when mammoths roamed North America. They specialized in scavenging the large mammals common during the paleozoic. Their size limits the size of the carcass that they can scavenge efficiently. Since there are no more large mammals like mammoths, the condor should be allowed to go extinct. Yet millions have been spent in restoring the condor population from a measly seven individuals. That money would have been better spent on an animal population that is more viable.)
- The fact that the true purpose of the ESA is mis-leading often
creates a back-lash against it by those who do not understand it.
These were given to me by Mike B.
- has not adequately addressed the issue of inequities in species recovery funding (charismatic
species tend to get the bucks),
- has not adequately addressed the issue of managing ecosystems rather than species by species
(leading to confusing/conflicting recovery goals between more than one species, and needless
inefficiences and duplication of effort),
- has become a lightning rod for many who decry government regulation, polarizing segments of the