What do red wolves, tigers, sea otters, and black-footed ferrets have in common? 

They’re all protected by the Endangered Species Act.

What does the ESA do? 

The ESA was passed in 1973 and has been one of the most comprehensive conservation laws ever put in place by any nation. The goal of the ESA is to prevent the extinction of animals and plants and conserve both species and the ecosystems in which they live.

Once a plant or animal is put onto the list, the law requires that the federal government is responsible for protecting it. The protected wildlife cannot be traded, sold, harmed, killed, or captured without a permit. The land and water resources that it depends on also are required to be protected. Recovery plans to keep these animals and plants safe and on the right path to recovery are required as well.

The whole point of the ESA is to get plants and animals off the list by recovering their numbers so they no longer need protection.  

How does one get on the list? 

Before a species receives protection under the ESA, it must be added to either the federal list: the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife or the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants.  

There are several factors that are looked at when deciding if a species qualifies for being on the list:  

  • If a large part of the habitat has been destroyed

  • If over-consumption through commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes is present

  • If disease or predation poses a threat

  • If man-made factors are involved in affecting their long-term survival

  • If current laws aren’t adequately protecting them

If any of the above plays a part in the survival of a species, they’re added to the list and receive federal protection.

What’s the difference between “Endangered” species and “Threatened” species?

On the list, a species is given the label “endangered” or “threatened” based on the degree of threat it faces.

Endangered species are plants and animals that have a high risk of extinction through most or all of its range.

Threatened species are those that will probably be endangered in the near future.

Does the ESA work?

With the ESA in place, many animals have been brought back from the edge of extinction. The bald eagle and humpback whales are examples of the success of the ESA.

Recently, gray wolves were taken off the list, amid much controversy. We’ll talk about that on Friday’s post In the meantime share this with a friend to get them involved!