The Endanged Species Act
By Amelia Meyer
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA; 7 U.S.C. § 136, 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq.) was formulated in the United States of America with the express purpose of protecting the species that are being threatened by various dangers, as well as the ecosystems on which they depend for their survival. The 1970s was a decade in which America implemented a number of environmental laws as it became more aware of the damage that humans were inflicting upon the environment and the need to legalise the prevention of such damage.
The Endangered Species Act was made part of the American legislation by President Nixon on 28 December 1973 with the purpose of protecting critically endangered species from extinction as a "consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation." Its full official title is “An Act to provide for the conservation of endangered and threatened species of fish, wildlife, and plants, and for other purposes”. It is administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
This Act was put into place in response to President Nixons declaration that the efforts to conserve endangered species at that time were wholly ineffective and insufficient. A team of qualified, experienced lawyers and scientists sat together to formulate the Act. One of the major factors that needed to be revised was to consider the welfare of animals within their current environments, and not within the environment to which they were native, since many had been moved.
The Act has a goal of removing or decreasing the threats to the existence of particular plants and animal species, as well as of protecting the animals and plants themselves.
To be listed as endangered and, thereby, receive the protection of the Act, one of the following criteria must be met by the species:
1. There is the present or threatened destruction, modification, or restriction of its habitat or natural range.
2. There has been an over-utilisation of space or other natural resources for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes.
3. The population numbers of the species is diminishing because of disease or predation.
4. There are not enough effective regulatory methods and systems in place.
5. There are other factors (natural or manmade) affecting its continued existence.
Once a particular species has applied to be included on this list (or has been elected by an independent entity), they are evaluated by the government organisations involved before being approved or denied. No political or economic factors can affect whether the species is considered to be endangered or not. This categorisation is based wholly on the biological factors. The approval process takes approximately one year to achieve, making this an arduous, but worthy, effort for the species involved. The rate of the listing can be accelerated and influenced by the involvement of the community in the form of signed petitions, lawsuits, and so on.
A recovery plan is an important part of the process. No matter how depleted the species number, there needs to be a plan to rehabilitate and recoup the numbers somehow. The goal is to get the numbers to a level at which the species is no longer considered to be endangered.
For a species to be removed from the official Endangered Species list, the following criteria are evaluated:
1.Has the threat been eliminated or controlled effectively?
2.How have the population size and growth patterns changed since the species was listed?
3.Is the habitat now of an acceptable quality? Is there enough space for the animals?