When the Endangered Species Act passed in 1973, few understood its ramifications. No one voted against the bill in the Senate, and only 12 representatives opposed it in the House. The bill encountered no organized opposition of any kind.
But now, 45 years later, it’s hard to find a more controversial or more powerful environmental law. Depending on who you ask, the act is either one of America’s greatest conservation successes or one of its most dismal failures. Its supporters point out that only 1 percent of the species listed have gone extinct, while critics counter that less than 2 percent of listed species have recovered and been delisted.
Currently, all three branches of federal government are looking at the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior have proposed revisions for listing endangered and threatened species and for designation of critical habitat. Congress is holding hearings on bills amending the Endangered Species Act, and the Supreme Court is preparing to rule on a case deciding if designated critical habitat for endangered species must actually be habitable.
The Endangered Species Act has proven effective at preventing extinctions but not at promoting species recovery. Because we care about preventing extinction and recovering endangered species, the challenge is to find reforms that preserve what the act does well while boosting incentives for recovering species. Some ideas from PERC on how this can be accomplished are explained below:
Road to Recovery: A report on how restoring the Endangered Species Act’s two-step process can prevent extinction and promote recovery.
PERC Reports: Getting Species Recovery Right: This issue of PERC Reports explores the challenges of species recovery—and how to provide incentives that can overcome those challenges.
Testimony and Public Comments:
House Committee on Natural Resources Legislative Hearing: PERC Research Fellow Jonathan Wood’s testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources on a collection of bills that seek to reform the Endangered Species Act.
Public Comment on Proposals to Improve the Endangered Species Act: PERC weighs in on efforts by the Department of the Interior to “improve and modernize” the Endangered Species Act.
Read more at: PERC