We Can Save Them All
Over the years, species on Earth continue to dwindle and head toward extinction. Whether it be due to disease, human actions, or other factors, more and more species are disappearing. As a society, we must protect and save species native to the United States as well as species around the world. The Endangered Species Act plays a vital role in the conservation and protection of these species to mitigate the factors that affect their survival.
What is the Endangered Species Act (ESA)?
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed into law in 1973 to prevent extinction and protect endangered plant and animal species along with the ecosystems they live in. The ESA is overseen by the Department of the Interior, Department of Commerce, and Department of Agriculture. Both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) are led by scientists and conservationists that are knowledgeable about species survival. These two organizations are responsible for implementing the ESA.
For a species to be considered protected under the ESA, it must be either “threatened” which means it is a possibility the species will become endangered in the future, or “endangered” which means the species could face extinction in the foreseeable future. State and public agencies can petition a proposal to add a species to the list or the FWS and NMFS can begin the process of adding a species to the list. For each listed species, the FWS and NMFS must assign a “critical habitat” which is an area or region that is known to be inhabited by the species or an undisturbed area that is ideal for population growth, reproduction, breeding, and rearing offspring. Also, the “critical habitat” should have adequate shelter, water, and food sources to ensure both the species’ psychological and nutritional requirements are met. A recovery plan outlining the cost, management, and a detailed schedule for completion is required to work toward delisting the species.
Polar Bears (Ursus maritimus) are listed as a threatened species and are protected under the ESA. In 2011, the critical habitat for polar bears was finalized which is in Alaska adjacent to U.S waters and territory. The critical habitat provides polar bears with access to a sea and ice habitat, nutrition sources dens for offspring and protection, and a space that is free of houses, roads, and other infrastructure. There is currently an ongoing recovery plan led by the FWS regarding Polar Bears.
The plan consists of both proposed actions, which were discussed between members of the recovery team when developing the plan, and research actions, which were proposed by the recovery team along with the traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and science work group. Some proposed actions are “managing human-bear conflicts, protecting denning habitats, minimizing contamination risks due to oil spills.” Some research actions are “population dynamics and distribution, habitat ecology, health and nutritional ecology, and human-polar bear interactions.”
FWS’s Role in Global Efforts
The FWS’s International Affairs Program works within the U.S. as well as outside the U.S. to coordinate conservation efforts, increase wildlife diversity, and protect habitats for species facing serious threats, and are of concern both nationally and internationally. The program supports global species conservation financially, implementing laws and treaties to prevent wildlife trafficking, and issuing permits to organizations and businesses to legally participate in international trade while supporting and participating in conservation efforts.
Who’s on the Endangered Species List?
Currently, there are 4138 native species and 646 foreign species listed by the FWS. Foreign species include the Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), Brown Bear (Ursus arctos arctos) Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), and the Long-Tailed Langur (Presbytis potenziani).
Native species include the California Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma californiense), Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Red Wolf (Canis rufus), and Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii).
The ESA is Under Attack
The ESA serves to protect vulnerable species to prevent extinction. Recently, the act has been under attack by several causing damage to species populations and eliminating the protection of some species altogether. Recently the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources voted on six different bills that aim in removing protections from Grizzly Bears and Gray Wolves as well as make other changes to the act that would result in less protection for other species.
The Trust Science Act (H.R. 764) would remove protections Gray Wolves have under the ESA in 48 states. The Grizzly Bear State Management Act (H.R. 1245) would remove ESA protection for Grizzly Bears in the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem. The House Joint Resolution 46 would revoke the decision made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. National Fisheries Service to expand habitat locations that could be protected under the ESA to prevent species extinction. In 2011, Congress required the FWS to delist wolves located in Montana and Idaho which resulted in thousands of wolves being slaughtered. If H.R 764 were to pass, many more wolf populations that are in those regions will be subjected to trapping, killing, and trophy hunting. If the Grizzly Bear State Management Act were to pass, Grizzly Bears will also be delisted, and be subject to trophy hunting.
Ways You Can Make a Difference
There are several petitions societal members can sign to prevent changes to the ESA and keep Gray Wolves and Grizzly Bears protected under the ESA. Every signature counts toward improving the lives of these species that are in danger and other species protected under the ESA as well.
- Petition to Congress: Stop Attacks on the Endangered Species Act
- Petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Relist Gray Wolves for Continued Protection under the ESA
- Petition to Martha Williams, Director of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service: Keep Grizzly Bears Protected Under the ESA
- Speak up for the Voiceless by Contacting Your State’s Legislators
The Future of Species Protected Under the ESA
With these new proposed changes, the status of endangered or threatened will only further worsen to possible extinction. Removing protected species and not initiating other protective measures to keep the population stabilized is adding to the problem. Trophy hunting is cruel, unnecessary, and damaging to species populations. Not only will Grizzly bears and wolves be in danger, but further actions can lead to delisting and removing protections from other vulnerable species. With the success the ESA has had over time in preventing extinction, why take that away now since it has proved since 1973 to be effective? By allowing these acts to pass and targeting the FWS, our wildlife is facing risk after risk. Every step counts. Starting now, we can change the future for our wildlife. We can strive to protect them just like we do our families and friends. They deserve to be on the planet just as much as we do. With a combined effort, we can save them all, but we must get started now before it is too late.
Block, K., & Amundsen, S. (2023, April 28). Breaking: New threats to grizzlies, wolves and Endangered Species Act emerge in Congress. A Humane World. https://blog.humanesociety.org/2023/04/new-threats-grizzlies-wolves-endangered-species-act-emerge-congress.html
Endangered Species Act. (n.d.). Defenders of Wildlife. https://defenders.org/endangered-species-act
Environmental Conservation Online System. (n.d.). ECOS: Species profile. https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp/species/A0IJ. https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp/species/A0IJ
Environmental Conservation Online System. (n.d.). ECOS: Untitled page. https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp/report/species-listings-by-tax-group-totals
Environmental Conservation Online System. (n.d.). ECOS: Untitled page. https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp/report/species-listings-foreign?statusCategory=Listed
The Humane Society of the United States. (2021, September 17). Find Your Legislators. Engaging Networks. https://secured.humanesociety.org
International affairs. (n.d.). FWS.gov. https://www.fws.gov/program/international-affairs
Keep Grizzly Bears Protected Under the Endangered Species Act. (n.d.). Change.org. https://www.change.org/p/keep-grizzly-bears-protected-under-the-endangered-species-act?redirect=false
Relist gray wolves to the Endangered Species Act! | Take action @ the rainforest site. (n.d.). GreaterGood.com. https://greatergood.com/clicktogive/trs/petition/relist-gray-wolves-to-esa#petition-signatures-link
Tell Congress to protect the Endangered Species Act! (n.d.). Sierra Club. https://act.sierraclub.org/actions/national?actionid=ar0390705&id=70131000001iOuIAAU
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (n.d.). Critical habitat. FWS.gov. https://www.fws.gov/project/critical-habitat