Short Rant on the ESA and the Uninformed

The Endangered Species Act might not be as well known as the EPA, but it’s probably more effective. I knew about the ESA prior to the class, but I’m definitely learning more about it and its history. Before I get to that, I was astonished by how few people knew about the ESA. I might be a bit older than some of the students in the class, but still. I even heard people talking about the ESA protecting animals that are outside of the U.S., even after we’ve discussed that it is a U.S only law. It really does show how small of a bubble some people live in, and how little they understand about the U.S wildlife. It almost seems as if people generally know more about the wildlife in Africa compared to the wildlife in, lets say the Bay Area. I’m sure more than a a few people didn’t know what a salt marsh was until they took this class. Still even though they might not know it, I hope they are learning more about it thanks to this course.

I was surprised to learn about how rocky the history of the ESA was. Implementation of the “Good Squad” exemption seemed like it was the only way for the opposition to continue to work around the law. Thankfully it was dropped in the 90’s.  It was quite shock, though it probably shouldn’t have been, that the halting of some projects due to an endangered species could take so long and goes through so much litigation. The Tellico Dam situation took over 10 years to be settled and most of it was going back and forth from the dam company wanting to build where an endangered species lived and the environmentalist firing back to stop it. I knew our judicial process was slow, but that’s just insane.

Learning about the specifics of Section 7 of the ESA was both depressing and encouraging. It turns out that Section 7 does more to encourage companies to be more environmentally conscious rather than stopping the destruction entirely. That’s not a bad thing since at least we can save some of the environment using Section 7. It’s not a surprise to me that the Bush administration tried to get rid of section 7, but I am glad that it has consistently held up. The ESA is a very important tool for saving U.S. wildlife and while it’s frustrating that more people don’t know about it, at least 40 more people now know how important it is.

Summary of the ESA and Section 7:

Through federal action and by encouraging the establishment of state programs, the 1973 Endangered Species Act provided for the conservation of ecosystems upon which threatened and endangered species of fish, wildlife, and plants depend. The Act:

  • authorizes the determination and listing of species as endangered and threatened;
  • prohibits unauthorized taking, possession, sale, and transport of endangered species;
  • provides authority to acquire land for the conservation of listed species, using land and water conservation funds;
  • authorizes establishment of cooperative agreements and grants-in-aid to States that establish and maintain active and adequate programs for endangered and threatened wildlife and plants;
  • authorizes the assessment of civil and criminal penalties for violating the Act or regulations; and
  • authorizes the payment of rewards to anyone furnishing information leading to arrest and conviction for any violation of the Act or any regulation issued thereunder.

Section 7:

All other federal agencies, in consultation with and with the assistance of the
Secretary, must use their authorities in furtherance of the purposes of
the Act by carrying out programs for the conservation of listed species.
All federal agencies, in consultation with and with the assistance of the lead agency,
must insure that any action authorized, funded or carried out by the agency (agency
action) is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of an endangered or
threatened species, or result in destruction or adverse modification of a critical
habitat of a species.

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