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Endangered Species Act | A History of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 | The Endangered Species Act at 35
In 1972, President Nixon declared that conservation efforts in the United States aimed toward preventing the extinction of species were inadequate and called on the 93rd Congress to develop comprehensive endangered species legislation. Congress responded, and on December 28th, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 was signed into law.
Unlike other laws that focus on individual animals, such as the U.S. Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, or groups of species like the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, is applicable to all species of fish, wildlife, and plants.
In 2008 the Endangered Species Act turned 35.
In observance of this anniversary, we interviewed Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall. As the Service’s Director, Dale has had significant leadership responsibilities for national oversight of the Endangered Species Act and its associated programs within the Service.
It's difficult for many Americans; in particular those under the age of say 40, to understand our nation's environmental situation as it existed during the late 60s and early 70s.Why was a national Endangered Species Act needed in 1973, and why do we still need it today?
When talking about preventing the extinction of species, people often ask, "Isn't extinction a natural process?"Even more pointedly, many people ask, "Why save some obscure bug or plant that nobody has ever heard of?" Or they may say, "What good is that species?"
There are nearly 1,400 species of plants and animals that are protected under the law and, for the most part, placing species under the protection of the ESA is not a controversial matter. However, there have been several species that have generated high levels of public interest, as well as extensive debate about the law.How do you think we can better communicate our program so that the anxieties the ESA sometimes generates can be minimized or avoided?
As a follow-up to that question, do you have any suggestions as to how we might help our fellow citizens to better understand that, in general, protection for species and their habitats is also a form of protection for our well-being and our future?
Also along those lines, what advice would you offer that can improve our ability to act sooner to conserve species, for example candidate and at-risk plants, fish, and wildlife to prevent their further decline and ultimately the need to list these species?
The Endangered Species Program is not the only Fish and Wildlife Service program that contributes to the recovery of endangered and threatened species. What are the contributions of some other programs in the Service?
The ESA has evolved in terms of its implementation, policies, and tools over the past 35 years. What thoughts or messages would you offer to us as the Service and as American citizens to meet the challenges that we will likely face as we work to recover species in the years ahead?
Director Hall, you have had a long and very successful career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and throughout much of that career you have been involved with endangered species and the ESA. Can you give us some background about your experiences and how you came to work with the program?
We hear a lot about ecosystem management and looking at the whole or landscape conservation--do you see the Service doing more in the landscape conservation approach?
Contributers to this interview include: Mike Bender, Ann Haas, Kelly Geer, and Nan Rollison.
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