Happy Birthday Endangered Species Act!

Grizzly Bear hunting salmon at Katmai National Park, Alaska.Credit: <a href="http://www.daphoto.info/">Dmitry Azovtsev</a> via <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Grizzly_Bear_Fishing_Brooks_Falls.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>.

On this day 38 years ago Richard Nixon signed into law the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a landmark moment in human development when we formally recognized that animals and plants—imperiled as “a consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation”—deserved to survive… and need our protection in order to survive.

The ESA has been embattled since its birth. But so is every advance in human thinking that expands the rights and humane treatment of nonhuman others.

Currently, there are ~1,990 species listed under the ESA. Some 1,380 of these inhabit the US and its waters. The rest are foreign species.

Here’s a list of some species whose populations have grown since getting their ESA listing (HT Wikipedia):

  • Bald eagle (from 417 to 11,040 pairs, 1963-2007); removed from list 2007
  • Whooping crane (from 54 to 436 birds, 1967-2003)
  • Kirtland’s warbler (from 210 to 1,415 pairs, 1971-2005)
  • Peregrine falcon (from 324 to 1,700 pairs, 1975-2000); removed from list
  • Gray wolf (dramatical population increase in northern Rockies, Southwest, and Great Lakes)
  • Gray whale (from 13,095 to 26,635, 1968-1998); removed from list
  • Grizzly bear (from about 271 to over 580 in Yellowstone area, 1975-2005); removed from list 3/22/07
  • Southern sea otter (from 1,789 to 2,735, 1976-2005)
  • San Clemente Indian paintbrush (from 500 to >3,500, 1979-1997)
  • Red wolf (from 17 to 257, 1980-2003)
  • Florida’s key deer (from 200 to 750, 1971-2001)
  • Big Bend gambusia (from ~24 to >50,000)
  • Hawaiian goose (from 400 to 1,275, 1980-2003)
  • Virginia big-eared bat (from 3,500 to 18,442, 1979-2004)
  • Black-footed ferret (from 18 to 600, 1986-2006)

There are a lot of unsung heroes behind the reversals of fortune embodied in this list. Thanks to all of you.

RARE from Joel Sartore on Vimeo.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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