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The Endangered Species Actís 40th Anniversary

Endangered Species Act 40th Anniversary banner. Credit: USFWs

When President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) into law on December 28, 1973, he wrote in his signing statement:

"Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed. It is a many-faceted treasure, of value to scholars,
scientists, and nature lovers alike, and it forms a vital part of the heritage we all share as Americans.”

At the time, the environmental movement was incredibly active, persuading the President to support and Congress to pass numerous laws such as the Clean Water Act, Clean Air
Act, National Environmental Policy Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Congress recognized that “Various species of fish, wildlife, and plants in the United States have been rendered extinct as a consequence of economic growth and development untempered
by adequate concern and conservation. Other species of fish, wildlife, and plants have been so depleted in numbers that they are in danger of or threatened with extinction.”

Intent on fulfilling Nixon’s mandate, the authors of the ESA made an unmistakably strong statement on national species protection policy. The ESA provided for the protection of
ecosystems, the conservation of endangered and threatened species, and the enforcement of all treaties related to wildlife preservation.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is by far the most significant piece of endangered species legislation and is considered one of the world’s most important conservation laws.

Today the Endangered Species Act protects more than 1400 domestic species and 600 foreign species.

During the last 40 years, the Endangered Species Act has been credited with saving 99 percent of those species listed from extinction. Bald eagles, gray wolves, American alligators and
brown pelicans all staved off extinction due to ESA protection, and successfully recovered to the point they no longer needed federal protection.

The ESA is a critical safety net for fish, wildlife and plants and has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species, as well as promoting the recovery of many others, and conserving
the habitats upon which they depend.

Today, hundreds of species are stable or improving thanks to management actions of federal agencies, state and local governments, conservation organizations and private citizens. Our partners share a commitment to build on our accomplishments and expand innovative initiatives to further this mission in the future.

For more information on the ESA’s 40th Anniversary, please visit <www.fws.gov/endangered/ESA40/index.html>.



Last updated: July 16, 2013
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