What Is the Difference Between Endangered and Threatened?
The Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act) describes two categories of declining species of plants and animals that need the Act's protections endangered species and threatened species and provides these definitions:
Endangered - any species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range;
Threatened - any species that is likely to become an endangered
species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant
portion of its range.
All of the protections of the Act are provided to endangered species. Many, but not all, of those protections also are available to threatened species. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has the authority to determine which protections should apply to each threatened species; in other words, we can select and fine tune the protections that best meet the species' recovery needs.
Threatened status benefits species and people in two situations: (1) it provides Federal protection before a species reaches the brink of extinction; and (2) in the case of species that were initially listed as endangered, threatened status also allows scaling back Federal protection as they recover and no longer need the maximum protections of the Act.
Other flexibility provided by threatened status under the ESA includes:
Flexibility for States
Permitting Authority for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
via Special Regulations Under Section 4(d) of the Act
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 3 - revised March 2003