Endangered Species

The ocelot is an endangered, wild cat native to North America.  Leonardo Prest Mercon Ro/Getty

The ocelot is an endangered, wild cat native to North America. Leonardo Prest Mercon Ro/Getty

The Endangered Species Act was created to help prevent the extinction of a specific species. The Act involves preventing further decline in the population of a species and within that it includes protecting their habitat. While politicians focus on the use of land and the expenses involved with the ESA, the scientists focus on the potential risks for losing either a species or a habitat and sometimes both.  

Starting in the early 1900’s, the Act slowly began to form. The near disappearance of the bison and other animals caused an uprise in the education of how to prevent animals from extinction. By the mid 1960’s the first draft of the then passed Act was created. This included protection for animals living in and native to the United States. When the Act was updated in 1969, it expanded its protection to species worldwide. The Act that we most recently knew was finalized in 1973. The updates to the 1973 Act allowed for the public, through organizations or as individuals, to petition for a species to be listed as endangered. 

About 99% of the species added to the ESA are prevented from going extinct. This includes animals such as the bald eagle, the grizzly bear and the humpback whale. 

In 2019, the Endangered Species Act was altered. One major alteration is the criteria required for a species to be listed as endangered. For instance, the Act will no longer consider protection for a species that calls for expenses that are deemed excessive by the government. Just as it is becoming harder to add a species to the endangered species list, it is also becoming easier to remove them. The criteria for removing a species from the list is becoming less detailed and less structured. Animals are now allowed to be removed from the list without practical knowledge that they will survive without the protection.

An additional change is that they are weakening the protection of the species already on the list. This suggests that the land the species lives on can become available for other purposes. For example, businesses could easily use the land for things such as mining or building. 

In the end, the changes make it harder for a species to be added to the list, but easier for them to be removed. It lowers the amount of money used towards protecting a species while allowing for the species habitat to be used for other purposes. These changes threaten not only the species themselves, but also their habitat, which in turn contributes to climate change.

Ways to Help: 

  1. Write a letter to your Congressperson in your state stating that we need to reenforce protection for endangered species. Here is a good site on how to do this.

  2. Send a letter to the President asking him to change his rollback of the Endangered Species Act. Here is a good place to help guide you.

  3. Educate yourself and others. Post articles on your social media platforms, sign petitions, etc. 

  4. Donate to organizations like The National Wildlife Federation or The Natural Resource Defense Counsel or the Endangered Species Coalition