How NOT to Save Endangered Species

How NOT to Save Endangered Species

You wouldn’t turn off the firehose during a five-alarm inferno.

So why are some of our elected officials moving to eliminate lifesaving protections for some of our country’s most threatened and endangered species — even as scientists worry about mass extinctions on the horizon? 1

Polar Bear Mother and Cubs

Scientists say that polar bears could be extinct by the end of the century unless we take dramatic steps to save them.

The threat to endangered species

We’re already in the middle of the worst extinction crisis in 65 million years. 2 In 2015, The Washington Post reported that:

“[B]iologists found that the Earth is losing mammal species 20 to 100 times the rate of the past. Extinctions are happening so fast, they could rival the event that killed the dinosaurs in as little as 250 years. Given the timing, the unprecedented speed of the losses and decades of research on the effects of pollution, hunting and habitat loss, they assert that human activity is responsible.” 3

But even this grave threat hasn’t stopped some Members of Congress from proposing legislation that would put a five-year deadline on recovery for endangered animals, before exposing them to hunting, habitat destruction, and other threats. 4

The legislation 5 — introduced by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Dean Heller — would eliminate vital protections for every single endangered animal listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) after that species has been on the list for just five years.

A rare Mexican Grey Wolf

Animals like the American southwest’s endangered Mexican gray wolves my lose protections under proposed legislation.

Imperiled species would only receive ESA protections if Congress voted individually to extend them on a case-by-case basis. Any newly endangered animals would require Congressional approval, turning each decision into a political football. 6

Even worse, the legislation would block any review by the courts. And state governors would get to unilaterally decide whether endangered species would even be protected within their borders. Right now, more than a thousand endangered species are only found in one state — meaning a single person would be able to decide if they go extinct or not. 7

The Endangered Species Act saves lives

The Endangered Species Act is one of America’s biggest environmental success stories. Since the ESA became law, 98 percent of the species listed as endangered have survived, including iconic animals like the American bald eagle and gray wolves. 8

But time limiting our efforts to rescue imperiled animals like these and eliminating the public’s ability to bring legal challenges when the government fails to protect them is a recipe for extinction. Our bald eagles needed 40 years on the endangered species list to recover. Humpback whales needed ESA protections for 36 years. And the recovery of peregrine falcons took 29 years. 9

The good news? It’s not too late to stop the terrible proposal and save wildlife at risk of extinction in the wild.

How you can help endangered species

We know that the planet is a better, more magical place with wild animals like polar bears and gray wolves. Preventing extinction is worth our effort and patience. But it doesn’t happen on arbitrary political deadlines.

Please send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper telling them that you think we should keep the Endangered Species Act as strong as possible.

Your letter today could make a big difference. Four in five Congressional staff members say that reading letters to the editors of local papers has “some” or “a lot” of influence in their office’s decision making. 10


1  McGill University. “We’re on the brink of mass extinction — but there’s still time to pull back,”  ScienceDaily, 31 May 2017.

2 “Earth is on brink of a sixth mass extinction, scientists say, and it’s humans’ fault,” Washington Post, June 22, 2015.

3 Washington Post, 2015. Ibid.

4 “Nevada Republican Seeks to Rewrite Endangered Species Act,” US News & World Report, April 29, 2017.

5 “S. 953 – Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act,” US Senate. April 25, 2017.

6 Carpenter, Cassandra. “The Endangered Species Act: Uncertainty under Trump,” The Hill, January 27, 2017.

7 “A New Bill Could Completely Upend the Endangered Species Act,” NewsChannel5, April 30, 2017.

8 “Defining Success Under the Endangered Species Act,” Fish & Wildlife Service, Accessed May 12, 2017.

9 “Delisted Species,” Fish & Wildlife Service, Accessed May 12, 2017.

10 “Perceptions of Citizen Advocacy on Capitol Hill,” Congressional Management Foundation, 2011.