07:59 PM

For Immediate Release


WASHINGTON (August 2, 2017) – A new report released by the U.C. Irvine School of Law Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources, (CLEANR) finds that states do not have sufficient laws or resources to adequately protect endangered species.

The new report, The Limitations of State Laws and Resources for Endangered Species Protections, comes amid new calls in Congress to dismantle, “invalidate” or “modernize” the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including calls to transfer federal authority for endangered wildlife to the individual states.

Statement from Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO, Jamie Rappaport Clark:

“This new report by U.C. Irvine School of Law demonstrates that states simply do not have the legal authority or the resources to take on the federal government’s crucial role in conserving endangered species.

“The Endangered Species Act has helped prevent more than 99 percent of listed species from going extinct. This is a law that works, protecting wildlife such as the bald eagle, the Florida manatee and Mexican gray wolves from extinction.

“Yet Congress is attempting to roll back our nation’s most effective wildlife conservation law with legislation that subverts federal protections in favor of weaker state authority. According to the U.C. report, only 4 percent of states have substantial authority to promote recovery of endangered species and only 10 percent of states have significant habitat safeguards. Wyoming and West Virginia – home to endangered black-footed ferrets and bats, respectively – don’t even have endangered species laws.

“Though the Endangered Species Act recognizes the importance of close cooperation with the states, if the Act’s responsibilities were simply turned over to the states, our nation’s natural heritage would be in mortal danger. Piecemeal efforts might work for making a quilt, but they are certainly not enough to protect our wildlife.”


U.C. Irvine School of Law Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources issued a report entitled, “The Limitations of State Laws and Resources for Endangered Species Protections” on August 2, 2017, amid numerous recent Congressional hearings and proposed amendments on modernizing or invalidating the Endangered Species Act. Among the report’s findings were:

Few state ESA laws protect all endangered species within their state.

  • Only 18 states (36%) provide protection to all animal and plant species.
  • 17 states (34%) fail to protect plant species.
  • 2 states (4%), West Virginia and Wyoming, have no state legislation protecting endangered species.
  • Of the 17 states (34%) that fail to protect plant species, all have federally listed endangered or threatened plant species believed to or known to occur within the state.

Many state ESA laws do not require decisions to be based on sound science.

  • Only 27 states (54%), require the use of scientific evidence, including commercial data, as the basis for listing or delisting a species.
  • 15 states (30%) fail to provide any evidentiary standard for the listing and delisting of species.

Few state ESA laws require consultation with expert state agencies.

  • 38 states (76%) do not require intra-state agency consultation with the state’s expert wildlife agencies for state-level projects.

Most state ESA laws allow less citizen involvement than the federal ESA.

  • 30 states (60%) do not allow citizens to petition to initiate the process for the listing and delisting of a species.
  • Only 14 states (28%) allow citizens to petition to initiate the process to list or delist a species.

Few state ESA laws provide for the designation and protection of critical habitat.

  • 38 states (76%) fail to provide authority for the designation of critical habitat for threatened or endangered species.

Few state ESA laws protect against harm to important habitat or harm to species located on private lands.

  • Only 5 states (10%) consider the modification of habitat for a threatened or endangered species to be a form of prohibited take.
  • Only 16 states (32%) impose restrictions on private land use for the protection of species. Yet, nearly 80% of endangered species have relied on private land for all or some of their habitat

Virtually no states require plans to recover species for eventual delisting.

  • Only 2 states (4%) provide agencies with full recovery planning authority to help recover both endangered animals and plants.

States spend little and would need to massively increase funding to replace federal implementation.

  • State expenditures make up only approximately 5% of ESA spending.

For the full findings of the report, please go to: http://www.law.uci.edu/academics/centers/cleanr/news-pdfs/cleanr-esa-report-final.pdf

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 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 Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.