When you think about it…what is the purpose of the Endangered Species Act?

Photo by Piotr Podbielski

On December 28, 1973, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) became law. To be considered for listing, a species must be endangered or threatened for any of the following reasons: the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; disease or predation; inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.

Why should we care about animals becoming extinct or in jeopardy of becoming extinct? Why does one species of insect get protection while others get lethal sprays of insecticides? Why should one mammal be given protection and another hunted for its body parts? And who decides which species is listed and which isn’t or, if listed, is delisted?

Recently there has been much talk of delisting the gray wolf (Canis lupis). Many of the people doing the talking are politicians whose constituents want the animal removed from the endangered species list so the wolf can again be hunted legally. Scientists, not politicians, should be in control of who makes it or does not make it to the endangered species list. Preserving wildlife is everyone’s responsibility but only those with the knowledge of biological and environmental interactions should be making decisions about the future of a species—plant or animal, including invertebrates.

When you think about it…if the purpose of the ESA is to protect threatened species, then should not those who have species’ knowledge be the ones to offer comment and make decisions? Unless a politician is a qualified biologist who has had experience studying endangered species, his or her comments are opinions only and not necessarily based on fact. Protecting the threatened and endangered species of our planet is a critical job that involves a myriad of concerned, educated, and talented individuals who understand the threat to our very existence when another species vanishes from the planet. We need to keep politics out of the process.

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