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The incredible comeback of gray wolf is one of our country's greatest wildlife success stories. (Video courtesy of Steven Gnam)

The Endangered Species Act Is Under Political Attack

Politicians backed by extractive industry interests are now undertaking some of the most serious threats ever seen in the four decades of this landmark conservation law.

The Endangered Species Act Is Under Political Attack

Politicians backed by extractive industry interests are now undertaking some of the most serious threats ever seen in the four decades of this landmark conservation law.
Video courtesy of Steven Gnam
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The incredible comeback of gray wolf is one of our country's greatest wildlife success stories.
Update: Legislative proposals are now being introduced in Congress to weaken the Endangered Species Act. Take action!

Recognizing that extinction is irreversible, the United States did in 1973 what no country had done before, establishing a commitment to protect and restore the species that are most at risk of extinction.

The Endangered Species Act is one of the most popular and effective environmental laws ever enacted. More than four decades later, 99 percent of species protected under the Endangered Species Act have not perished, including:

  • The Bald Eagle An Endangered Species Act success story, our national symbol today numbers around 10,000 pairs—recovered from a low of 417 known nesting pairs in 1963.
    A bald eagle.
    Justin Connaher / U.S. Air Force
  • The Southern Resident Killer Whale Known to frequent the waters of Puget Sound, southern resident killer whales are starving. Seven members of the critically endangered population died in 2016, including ‘Granny,’ the oldest killer whale in the world. Earthjustice has been working tirelessly to restore the whales’ primary food source—wild salmon.
    J16 making rainbows while surfacing, in Puget Sound.
    Miles Ritter / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
  • The Gray Wolf A living symbol of wilderness, the wolf is one of North America's most iconic native predators. Wolves’ incredible comeback to the Northern Rockies is one of our country's greatest wildlife success stories. Yet their future is now under threat. Your help is needed to stop Congress from unleashing a war on wolves.
    Wolf #10 of the Rose Creek pack in Rose Creek pen, Yellowstone, in 1995.
    Barry O'Neill / National Park Service
  • The Grizzly Bear The majestic grizzly still exists in the Northern Rockies, despite being eradicated from other parts of the western United States. Earthjustice has worked for decades to safeguard grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from habitat destruction, excessive killing and other threats.
    Grizzly bear near Canyon,  Yellowstone National Park.
    Neal Herbert / National Park Service
  • The Florida Manatee These beloved marine creatures are endangered species at extinction's door, due in no small part to sewage, manure and fertilizer runoff choking local waterways with toxic algae. Earthjustice has worked for decades to curb such pollution and will continue to fight for strong federal protections for manatees.
    Manatees in Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, FL.
    David Hinkel / U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • The Wolverine The wolverine is among the rarest mammals in the Lower 48, facing severe threats such as habitat fragmentation, trapping, and climate change. With fewer than 300 wolverines left across the Northern Rockies, Earthjustice has persistently fought to win new legal protections under the Endangered Species Act to ensure their survival.
    A wolverine moving through the shadows of subalpine fir lit by alpenglow. Northern Rockies.
    Photo by Steven Gnam
  • The Whooping Crane This delicate bird is one of the most endangered animals on earth. Earthjustice is working to challenge the use of a highly toxic pesticide that these rare cranes are likely to consume on their migration path.
    A whooping crane.
    John Noll / U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The landmark conservation law is wildly popular among American voters. According to a national poll conducted in 2015, 90% of American voters support the Act—impressive results in an era of partisan strife.

In Support of the Endangered Species Act:

Asked whether they support or oppose the Endangered Species Act based on a basic description of the law, 90 percent of voters surveyed indicate they support it, including a majority (53%) who strongly support it, to just seven percent who oppose it.

Support the Endangered Species Act.

Oppose: 7%
Undecided: 3%
This overwhelming support for the Endangered Species Act extends across the country and across gender, age, and ethnic lines.

Overwhelming support extends across the country and across gender, age, ethnic lines, and the political spectrum.

Decisions on Species Protections:

By a margin of nearly 4-to-1, voters choose a science-based approach (71%) over allowing Congress to decide which species should be protected.

Choose a science-based approach: Biologists, not Congress, should make decisions on which species should and should not be protected.

Congress: 18%
Undecided: 11%

Growing The Economy:

66% of voters agree with Endangered Species Act supporters who say 'it is necessary to prevent species from going extinct and that we can protect our natural heritage for future generations while growing our economy and creating jobs.'

Believe we can protect our natural heritage for future generations, while also growing our economy and creating jobs.

Hurts economy: 24%
Undecided: 10%

Scientists believe we are currently undergoing the sixth mass wave of extinction ever to impact our planet. Stemming from human activity, this loss of biodiversity is occurring at an utterly unprecedented pace. Many species—no one knows how many—are being extinguished even before they are discovered. That’s why the Endangered Species Act is urgently needed. It has proven to be an effective force for stemming the tide.

Scientists estimated that without the Act, at least 227 species would have gone extinct between 1973 and 2005. And, in 2016, more species listed as federally endangered were found to be partially or fully recovered than in any other year since the Endangered Species Act became law.

As important, millions of acres of forests, beaches, and wetlands—those species’ essential habitats—have been protected from degradation. Thanks to the wisdom that went into developing this legal safety net, today’s children are able to experience the wonder of rare wild creatures as living, breathing parts of our natural heritage—not as dusty museum specimens.

Now, the Endangered Species Act is under political attack.

On Jul. 19, 2018, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke released a series of proposed changes to the way the agency interprets and carries out actions under the Endangered Species Act, including changes to the requirement that federal agencies consult with expert wildlife agencies and scientists when seeking permits for projects such as logging or oil and gas drilling operations.

Meanwhile, anti-environment interests in the House and Senate backed by oil and gas interests, mining companies, and other extractive industries are orchestrating some of the most serious threats ever posed to the Endangered Species Act:

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso. (CJ Baker / CC BY 2.0)On Jul. 2, 2018, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming released draft language for legislation that would drastically undermine the Endangered Species Act by turning control of listing decisions to the states and downgrading the input of scientists.
Numerous other bills have already also been introduced that seek to weaken citizen enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, interfere with the science-based standards for protecting species under the Act, and more.
Wolf watchers at Yellowstone's Slough Creek, March 2005.
Jim Peaco / National Park Service
Visitors at Yellowstone's Slough Creek patiently wait to catch a glimpse of wolves, March 2005.
Utah Republican Rob Bishop. (Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0)The chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, Utah Republican Rob Bishop, has said he wants to “repeal and replace” the Endangered Species Act.
Individual species are being targeted with legislation to strip them of Endangered Species Act protections. One such proposal, to remove federal protections for gray wolves in four states, has been dubbed “The War on Wolves Act.”
January catch of Forest Service hunter T.B. Bledsaw, Kaibab National Forest, circa 1914.
Arizona Historical Society
January catch of Forest Service hunter T.B. Bledsaw, Kaibab National Forest, circa 1914.

The stakes are too high to allow this to happen. It takes millions of years for species to evolve—but if we fail to protect our incredible, diverse fellow species from manmade threats, they can be lost in the blink of an eye.

Earthjustice, born in the same era as the Endangered Species Act, has been at the forefront of efforts to ensure this critical statute is enforced, acting in the interest of hundreds of plants and animals to ensure their survival. These benefits extend to people too. Humans are not isolated from their natural environment, and what happens to other species affects our own existence.

The Endangered Species Act must be defended. Tell Congress to protect this visionary law.

From June 25–29, 2015, Tulchin Research conducted a scientific survey online among a representative sample of 600 registered voters across the United States. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 4 percentage points. (Complete results.)

Published March 13, 2017.
Photo of Utah Rep. Rob Bishop by Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0. Photo of Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso by CJ Baker / CC BY 2.0