10 plants and animals that might have gone extinct without the Endangered Species Act
Last Thursday, the Trump administration announced a proposal to cut provisions in the Endangered Species Act (ESA)—the law that for almost half a century, has protected plants and animals at risk of extinction. The law has broad and bipartisan support across the country, with around 80 percent of Americans expressing their support for the law.
Announced jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—the two agencies that govern the ESA—the proposed changes aim to “improve collaboration, efficiency, and effectiveness,” but those opposing the proposal argue that it may leave some plants and animals more vulnerable.
For conservationists, one of the most concerning changes is striking out language that previously prevented economics from factoring in on decisions to protect species. As the act stands now, how to best preserve a vulnerable habitat is based purely on scientific data, not cost. Some worry that removing this rule could give businesses the go-ahead to develop near protected habitats. In addition, the new proposal means threatened species would no longer be extended the same protections as endangered ones—threatened species would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
“Species are literally of infinite value, they’re priceless. It shouldn’t be a question of cost,” says Bob Dreher, senior vice president for conservation programs for the nonprofit organization Defenders of Wildlife, regarding the allowance of economic consideration into the fate of a vulnerable plant or animal.
“Although a number of these regulatory changes may be fairly minor and may make sense, there’s virtually nothing we see in this package that actually enhances protection of endangered species,” he says. “And there are a number of provisions that may leave species exposed to threats. It really isn’t a package of regulations an administration that really cared about endangered species would be putting out.”
Right now, the ESA protects more than 1,600 plants and animals at risk of extinction, or at risk of becoming endangered. The act has been criticized in the past for delisting animals who still may be in need of protection, but the act has also helped more than 50 endangered or threatened species recover by protecting and restoring habitats, monitoring at-risk species, creating captive breeding programs, and reintroducing animals into the wild.
Here are 10 plants and animals the ESA has helped pull back from the brink.
Tennessee purple coneflower
Virginia flying squirrel