Today, President Biden announced his commitment to strengthening the Endangered Species Act and signed a proclamation commemorating the 50th anniversary of the ESA. Since President Nixon signed into law on December 28, 1973, the bedrock environmental law has saved 99 percent of listed species from extinction, including the bald eagle, Florida manatee, and the gray wolf.
The proclamation comes at a critical juncture for addressing the biodiversity crisis, which has seen staggering declines of more than two-thirds of all plant and animal life on Earth since 1970. And in the U.S. nearly half of ecosystems are now at risk of collapse. The biodiversity crisis is largely the result of human actions including climate change, pollution, and overexploitation like overfishing. The biggest driver of biodiversity loss is the destruction of habitat through activities like logging, development, agriculture, and mining. The crisis would be even worse today if not for the ESA.
“Today’s proclamation makes clear that the Endangered Species Act remains a vital tool for protecting nature and life on our planet,” said Earthjustice Legislative Director for Lands, Wildlife, and Oceans Addie Haughey. “Along with the efforts the President highlighted today to invest in and restore the ecosystems that we all rely on, we must do all we can to ensure the ESA is as strong as ever. It is both a backstop to prevent extinction, and a roadmap to species recovery, guiding our way out of the biodiversity crisis.”
While more than four out of five Americans support the ESA, the law and the vital purpose it serves have come under persistent political attack by industry interests. This year alone, President Biden vetoed attempts by members of Congress on behalf of polluters and industry to remove ESA protections for at-risk species, such as the lesser prairie-chicken and northern long-eared bat.
The announcement also marks a political anniversary for President Biden, who joined a nearly unanimous Congress to pass the ESA in what was one of his earliest acts as a U.S. Senator. On July 24, 1973, then Senator Biden voted with 91 other Senators to pass the bill that would be signed into law later that year. There was not a single dissenting vote in the Senate.