The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been around for almost 40 years, protecting and conserving our country’s wildlife. Research teams are constantly surveying the animal kingdom to check in with our neighbors, and make sure they are thriving in our shadows. In Texas scientists are looking at crayfish. In Pierce and Thurston counties they track gophers. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are all companies that work under the ESA.
The Endangered Species Act was passed in 1966, allowing branches of the government to survey and find ways to protect and conserve these endangered animals. This act also allowed these government branches to purchase huge spans of land to keep the rare creatures protected from human hands and wheels; these were called wildlife conservations. In 1969, the government expanded this act to help with the protection of worldwide species, by making their trade and ownership illegal in the United States.
1973 was a huge year for animals in danger all around the world. A convention in Washington D.C. led to the signing of 80 countries to sign an agreement pertaining to the international trade of endangered species, called CITES. This agreement monitors the trade of endangered animals and plants, and in some cases even restricts the organism from being sold at all.
That same year, United States Congress passed a plethora of amendments to the Endangered Species Act that bettered the lives of many animals, and led to some coming out of endangerment. Congress defined some animals as endangered; others are in danger of becoming endangered, or threatened. This was enacted because some animals needed to be closely monitored since human factors may soon cause them to become endangered. The ESA of 1973 also included all plants and invertebrates to the list, prohibited agencies from modifying endangered species natural habitats, and provided more funding for state and private endangered life protectors.
Over subsequent years, until today no major changes have happened to the 1973 model. The only major changes in the act was the expansion of its coverage. More government money was being spent on the conservation of wild animals. Separate branches were created to better assist various types of animals, plants, insects, and fish.
In 1996, Newt Gingrich laid down a bipartisan agreement that would loosen the restrictions for animals to be considered endangered. This agreement also loosened the rules around desecrating an endangered species’ habitat, by erecting buildings, or paving parking lots. However, this was shot down by the conservative Christians who were Gingrich’s main voting demographic. He withdrew the bill, because his followers turned against him, and characterized the ESA as today’s “Noah’s Ark.”
Today, Congress is working on amending the act yet again. The last major change was made in 2004, which was only created to allow the Department of Defense to opt out of their role in the protection of endangered animals. The bill allowed the Department of Defense to delegate their wildlife conservancy tasks to the Department of Justice, if that department had the capacity for the work to be done. This freed up the Department of Defense to concentrate on their important work in other political arenas.
On April 8, 2014, congress met to discuss the new amendment of the ESA. This amendment requires that environmental protection officials are more transparent about their decisions regarding these species and people. Officials state that the bill has been working well, but it could be better. The only way to know what actions are having negative and positive impact on our animals is to know exactly what decisions were made. This act will make all data available to the public. With all that is on the plate of the Endangered Species Act with the act of protecting and conserving America’s wildlife, the organization could sorely use help analyzing and processing the data they receive; this act will allow anyone to do that.
By: Joshua Shane