Protecting endangered species was all the rage in 1973, when the Endangered Species Act was passed, designating protected areas as “critical habitats” and creating long lists of species that had to be looked after. But by the 1990s, amid criticism that the act unnecessarily hurt property values and did little to help little critters in the first place, the act became largely un-enforced. Currently, the Bush administration is taking steps to limit what qualifies as a “critical habitat”, an alarming step for some environmentalists.
What the Endangered Species Act does (synopsis of Audobon's synopsis):
- Lists "endangered," "threatened" (at risk of becoming endangered) and "candidated" (would be endangered if there was enough room on the list) species;
- Assigns "critical habitats" for certain endangered species. When land is a "critical habitat," other federal agencies must first check with the Fish and Wildlife Service before that agency authorizes or does anything on that land that could harm the protected species;
- Creates "recovery plans" for endangered species;
- Prohibits the "taking" of any endangered species, which includes killing or harming of that species or its habitat. (Landlords can apply for permits to "take" species, provided they make plans to minimize the harm to the species' habitat.).
Number of species with a "critical habitat":
- 467. (August 2004) (FWS)
Number of species on the endangered and threatened lists:
- 390 American animals and 599 American plants are on the endangered species list (129 animals and 147 plants are on the "threatened" list). (FWS)
How many species have come off the list (FWS):
42 total; of those:
- 17 species recovered
- 9 species became extinct;
- 16 species were removed because their original data was found to be "in error"
Where the facts are from:
Audobon - organization dedicated to conserving natural ecosystems
FWS - Fish and Wildlife Service - government site
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