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Affirming America’s Commitment to Conservation: Celebrating 40 Years of the Endangered Species Act Success


Contact: Melanie Gade 202-772-0288

Affirming America’s Commitment to Conservation: Celebrating 40 Years of the Endangered Species Act Success

WASHINGTON   – Next week marks the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), our nation’s landmark wildlife conservation law. Despite decades of success and many species saved from extinction, today the ESA is threatened by new and accelerating political threats to significantly undermine or weaken it and the potent spread of misinformation about its effectiveness.

Defenders of Wildlife President Jamie Rappaport Clark provides the following statement:

“Four decades ago, America stood at a crossroads. Smog choked our air and America’s rivers were so polluted, one even caught fire. And some of the nation’s most iconic species – bald eagles, grizzly bears, California condors and whooping cranes -- were vanishing at a rapid rate. To protect our natural world, our leaders made the courageous choice to pass a trifecta of environmental laws: the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which recognizes its fortieth anniversary this December.

“Because of the ESA, our lives are indeed richer. Recovering wildlife are restoring balance to damaged ecosystems across the country, and Americans are reaping $1.6 trillion dollars per year in benefits provided by wildlife and habitat conservation in the form of food, medicine, clean air and water, flood protection and wildlife recreation. But most importantly, when we created the ESA, our political leaders from both the Republican and Democratic parties enshrined our nation’s conservation values into law and affirmed for all Americans that this country’s national resources are too valuable to let perish.

“Today, we find ourselves again at a conservation crossroads. Accelerating climate change, invasive species, habitat destruction and development, along with intense pressures to increase energy production are among the emerging threats to imperiled species. But none of these threats are as great as the opposition to the law from extreme anti-environmental politicians. Legislation has been introduced repeatedly in Congress to wave ESA protections for short-term economic gain, cut off funding vital to the recovery of particular animals and to block and overturn listings of imperiled wildlife. At times, the political fate and welfare of the ESA seems as uncertain as that of some of the imperiled species it so effectively supports.

Protecting America’s natural heritage and our wildlife for future generations is as important a values question now as it was four decades ago. As our nation faces a future defined by rapid change and escalating environmental pressures, we must recommit ourselves to conserving our nation’s plant and wildlife heritage for the long haul.  Forty years ago we believed that conserving America’s diverse wildlife and special habitats was essential to the nation’s way of life; the value of conservation united us across party lines. Today, once again, all of us have a choice: will we sit passively, and watch species vanish or will we work to conserve and recover them? The choice each of us makes will chart the course for this country for decades to come.”

For more information:  Please review our Back from the Brink Factsheet series to learn more about the ESA’s success stories in the Northeast, Southwest, Southeast and West.  To learn more about the many challenges our nation’s wildlife species still face on the road to recovery visit our  Conservation Crossroads web page.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.