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No. 1225, December 28, 2023
All this year the Center for Biological Diversity has been commemorating the 50th year of the Endangered Species Act, humankind’s most successful law for protecting imperiled animals and plants. Since its passage on Dec. 28, 1973, the Act has built up a stellar success rate, preventing the extinction of 99% of species under its care and recovering icons like American alligators, brown pelicans and bald eagles.
In September the Center and our partners celebrated this critical law by bringing together Tribes, conservation advocates and members of Congress in Washington, D.C. to recognize their work defending imperiled species and the Endangered Species Act.
You've been celebrating too — by taking action. So far this year more than 75,000 Center supporters have sent nearly 600,000 messages to decisionmakers on a variety of important endangered species issues.
Today is the Act’s 50th anniversary, and we’re going all out to live it up.
Read on to be part of the party.
Power Couple: Saving 758 Species and Counting
Yes, the Endangered Species Act is the world’s strongest law for fighting extinction. But without the Center, nearly half the species recognized as endangered or threatened might never have received protection — including wolverines, cactus ferruginous pygmy owls, foothill yellow-legged frogs, and dozens of others.
Our fights for species don’t end once we win them protection under the Act. After that, the Center is right there to ensure they get the law’s best protection by suing to stop activities that would destroy habitat and hurt wildlife. Our lawsuits have stopped logging from harming Mexican spotted owls and coho salmon, kicked grazing cows off hundreds of miles of rivers to protect southwestern willow flycatchers and yellow-billed cuckoos, and saved wildlife across the country from poisonous pesticides.
Since our founding in 1989, the Center has saved 758 species and half a billion acres of habitat. Since the Senate passed the Act unanimously in 1973 — and the House passed it by 390 votes to 12 — the Endangered Species Act has brought hundreds of species back from the brink of extinction.
Together the Center and the Act have done more to protect U.S. species than any other law and any other group.
Two (of Many) Success Stories
Since we don't have space to profile every species the Center and the Act have saved, here are two of our favorites.
The diminutive foxes of California’s Channel Islands evolved separately from mainland foxes over 16,000 years. In the 1990s, four of the six subspecies — each one found only on its own island — almost disappeared. Thanks to a petition by the Center and allies, they were put on the endangered species list in 2004, and in 2016 the foxes of San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands were taken off the endangered list, marking the fastest recovery of any protected U.S. mammal.
Then there are the mighty humpback whales of the Pacific, devastated by commercial whaling. By 1966 the entire North Pacific humpback population had dwindled to only 1,200 individuals. In 1973, Endangered Species Act protection kicked off decades of work to save them, and by 2010 an estimated 22,000 humpbacks were swimming the North Pacific. These whales still need help, and we’re delivering: In 2021 we won them 150,000 square miles of critical habitat.
Every day we're working to move hundreds of other species, great and small, toward recovery. Just this month, thanks to our advocacy, a tiny Alabama fish and rare West Virginia salamander were proposed for protection and gray wolves won a national recovery plan. And just yesterday, black-capped petrels were protected as endangered. Check out our press releases to learn more.
Because of the Endangered Species Act’s strength — and the thousands of species and millions of acres it has protected — the law has come under threat from powerful interests throughout its history. A key part of the Center’s mission is to defend the Act against attacks.
We rallied supporters throughout the terrible years of the Trump administration as it tried to gut multiple provisions that give the law its teeth. And we’ve kept the pressure on the Biden administration to restore and strengthen the rules safeguarding plants and animals across the United States and the world.
Watch our new video all about the first 50 years of the Endangered Species Act on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. Then share it on all your social accounts to spread the word about this lifesaving law.
If the Endangered Species Act is going to work for the next 50 years — and if it’s going to help save the planet’s biodiversity — it will need the Center’s help. In 2024 we’ll be fighting to make sure this landmark law is fully funded with an annual budget of at least $800 million. We’ll also be working to reform the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries to make sure they’re prioritizing the plight of the most endangered species. We’ll ward off congressional attacks on the Act and, as always, push to make sure that in any endangered species decision, science — not politics — leads the way.
You can help: Tell President Biden and his administration to ensure the next 50 years of the Endangered Species Act are even more successful than the first.
Center for Biological Diversity | Saving Life on Earth
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Photo credits: Brown pelican by Beck Matsubara/Wikimedia; wolverine by wildfaces/Pixabay; island fox by Tim Coonan/NPS and humpback whale by Whit Welles/Wikimedia; American alligator by jjjj56cp/Flickr; Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel courtesy DNREC, Division of Fish and Wildlife; screenshot from listed species map courtesy the Center for Biological Diversity; bald eagle by Brian J. Geiger/Flickr; Kodiak brown bears by Lisa Hupp/USFWS.
Center for Biological Diversity
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