The Endangered Species Act was signed into law on December 28th, 1973 by president Richard Nixon. The act recognized the importance of nature and the increasing risk of many plant and animal species that were going extinct at that time. The Endangered Species act (ESA) was put into effect to protect the most vulnerable and important species by protecting ecosystems of various species and to recover species so they no longer need protection.
Species that are identified to be in danger can be listed as threatened or endangered. Endangered species are determined to be in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Threatened means that a species is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.
We are currently living in a time where the world is seeing a mass extinction on the planet. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the world is in the midst of the 6th mass extinction. Previous mass extinctions were caused by natural events like asteroids, volcanoes, and natural climate shifts over long periods of time. Currently, nearly all extinctions are caused by human action either directly by habitat loss and over hunting or indirectly from climate change and pollution.
In May 2019, the U.N released a comprehensive report detailing the mass extinction currently underway across the globe. 1 million species are currently at risk of becoming extinct in the coming decades. If nothing is done, 30-50 percent of all species on earth could face extinction by the middle of the century. The 5 drivers of this extinction are changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution, and invasive species.
Recently, the Trump administration announced that there would be changes to the way the endangered species act is applied. These changes will weaken the conservation enforcement in the United States, making it more difficult to protect wildlife from Climate Change. The new changes make it easier to remove species from the list, weaken protections for threatened species, and using financial incentives when evaluating whether a species is fiscally worth protection. Proponents of the changes say that it will continue to protect species while also removing some red tape that hurts industries. They also believe the changes will modernize the act and increase transparency.
Environmental groups say this will allow more companies the chance to pursue mining, logging and drilling in currently protected areas. The United States government manages large amounts of public land through the United States Forest Service and the BLM which could be potentially leased by large environmentally unfriendly companies to further destroy habitats. The decision is currently being fought by states and environmental groups from being implemented.
Read the full Endangered Species Act Here