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June 22, 2014

Endangered Species Act

Should endangered species act be strengthened?
A species is considered endangered when its numbers have reached a level so low that its probabilities of disappearance become very high. The notion of threat of extinction is not easy to define as it depends on many factors. In addition, all species are not subject to the same degree of risk. The first requirement of U.S. law is to designate species as threatened or endangered. The majority of species, subspecies and distinct populations are included in this process, with the exception of insects; the law also protects the eggs and other stages of development. The list of designated species is established on the basis of best available scientific information and must be revised every five years. In September 1999, the Fish and Wildlife Service of the United States had registered 1197 species of plants and animals on the list of species threatened or endangered. (Donald, 2010)
Secondly, U.S. law requires the development of a recovery plan for each endangered species that appear on the list. The goal of the recovery plan is to promote the conservation and survival of an endangered species, so this species will no longer need protection. However, there are not always all species who benefit from such a plan, even today. In the early 1980s, a recovery plan had been drawn up for only 10 half of the 425 species listed at that time. Various measures implemented after 1988, including increased funding, has enabled a greater number of species to benefit from a recovery plan. In 2001, 1,254 species were listed as threatened or endangered, and in May 2003, they were covered by one or other of 1,102 recovery plans.
U.S. law also requires designation of critical habitat of an endangered species. These specific areas within the geographical distribution of the species that is essential to the conservation of this and that control layout or special protection. Currently, they are not all endangered species that have been designated critical habitat. Note that changes to the Endangered Species Act in 1978 have made it no longer required to designate critical habitat of a species if the costs associated with the protection of this habitat outweigh the benefits for the species, provided that this does not extinguish it. According to the National Wildlife Federation, this change has enabled the Fish and Wildlife Service of the United States to exclude 1.8 million acres of critical habitat for the spotted owl in the Northwest states, because the loss jobs and reducing federal payments exceeded the benefits associated with protection of the species.
The bans imposed by U.S. law to disturb endangered species apply both on private land than on public lands. Thus, any private landowner must obtain a permit to use land where individuals belonging to species at risk, the applicant is granted such a permit if it has a satisfactory conservation plan that minimizes the impact harmful actions. Finally, the Endangered Species Act provides a mechanism for reviewing all federal projects that could disturb the critical habitat of endangered species. Except in very rare exceptions - the case of the spotted owl and the snail darter - that provision did not prevent the implementation of projects after the screening, but rather allowed to make changes and measures mitigation necessary to protect endangered species.(Nazzaro, 2010)
Pros and Cons of Endangered Species Act
For several years, the Endangered Species Act is the subject of lively discussions. Primarily, the industry lobbyists oppose it because they see it as an obstacle to development, while conservationist lobbies defend by claiming that it has prevented the extinction of the Bald Eagle (the U.S. emblem ) and the Grizzly Bear, and a few other lesser known species. This situation has undoubtedly worsened the conflict between the opponents of this law and its defenders over the injunction obtained by American environmentalists in the mid-1980s about the habitat of the spotted owl. This injunction prohibits the operation for years of federal forests in the PNW.
The defenders of the Act consider that it was an essential and effective tool against extinction of species, since over 40 per 100 species listed have stabilized or increased their population. Note that only 69 projects have been canceled on 145,000 federal actions reviewed under this law between 1979 and 1992.
It indicates that few species have been delisted because subsequent studies showed they were stronger than expected.  They argue that sub-species and geographically isolated species represent only 20 per 100 of the total species list, but their ecological role is often important in the ecosystem to which they belong (Brian, 2001).
Another criticism of U.S. law is the emphasis on the protection of species rather than habitats. Although many scientists agree on the need to protect species and habitats, several commentators believe that we have placed too much emphasis on individual species and must instead focus on habitats or ecosystems. Thus, protecting an ecosystem rather than a particular species, it also protects other species, including those who have not yet been designated. For example, establishing a reserve system to protect old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest, the habitat of the spotted owl, we simultaneously protect 280 species of plants and animals in this ecosystem.
Unanimity seems easier to make about the need to make changes to the Endangered Species Act in respect of private land. Many people believe that the government should give more support and better incentives to owners of private land where there are endangered species. They suggest, for example, entitle them to the programs already available to farmers, ranchers and small farmers to protect wetlands, forests, soils and water quality (Fitzsimmons, 1999).
A number of legislative initiatives were introduced during the 106th Congress, most of them concerning the issues raised above. Specifically, the proposals made in the House of Representatives or the Senate relate to the designation of critical habitat and compensation for landowners, funding conservation measures of species conservation agreements, to reduction of the technical nature of the Endangered Species Act, etc.. However, the legislative proposal by Representative Don Young (HR 3160), filed in October 1999 and referred to the Resources Committee, was a major reform of this law and was thus more in line with the five-year revaluation required by current law.
The main factors taken into account in determining the level of threat to a species are:
- The geographical distribution: in general, the threat to a species is even greater than its range is reduced.
- The level of population: it is obvious that the greater the number of individuals in animal populations, the lower the risk of extinction are high. However, the counting of individuals is often difficult or impossible either because of their small size or because they live in communities large and difficult to penetrate, like ocean or rainforest. For example, for the African elephant, estimates vary between 500,000 and 800,000 people according to experts.
- Biology: the lifestyle of a species greatly influences its susceptibility to extinction. For example, a specialized diet or susceptibility to disease, predators or climate are important risk factors.
Unfortunately, the biology of many species, invertebrates, like vertebrates, is poorly known.
- The peculiarities of reproduction: the risk of extinction of a species are higher if she has a long reproductive cycle and reach sexual maturity very late. For example, some sea turtles do not occur before age 40.
- The types of threats: it can be terminated quickly to certain threats, while others require decades before disappearing (heavy metal pollution, tropical deforestation, etc.).
 IUCN (World Conservation Union) established on scientific classification of species into 8 categories depending on the degree of threat to them: completely extinct species, extinct in the wild, critically endangered species of extinction, endangered, vulnerable species, species with low risk, insufficiently known species, a species not studied. Any species listed under the categories "critically endangered", "endangered" and "vulnerable" is considered an endangered species.
In an attempt to halt the disappearance of animal species, a number of measures have been taken. Some are simple to implement, but they often need financial, technical and human resources and above all face opposition from economic or political interests.
Conducted successfully in some cases, particularly for birds, the reintroduction of a species is often difficult because it presupposes, first, that the causes of death have disappeared. It must also have enough animals to avoid endangering the survival of populations where they are taken. It should in addition avoid the risk of genetic pollution. Sometimes, animals are released to reinforce declining populations. Thus, bears from Slovenia were they re-introduced in the French Pyrenees to support a population reduced to less than ten individuals. A bear gave birth to two cubs, but a hunter has killed the mother. Fortunately, the cubs have survived.

It is possible, in some cases, to raise endangered species and release the livestock products in nature. It is usually the measure of last resort for animals bred in captivity are likely to show maladaptive behavior of their wild counterparts. However, this solution allowed the reintroduction of vultures in the Cevennes, France, or oryx (an antelope) in some African countries or the Middle East. It is also a widely used solution for marine turtles and crocodiles which eggs are removed from the wild and transported to hatcheries. The young are released into the wild when they are sufficiently developed to withstand all hazards.
In addition, breeding of endangered species for commercial purposes can sometimes be a good alternative to power a legal trade and thus limit the taking in the natural environment. An animal species can survive without an environment that is appropriate to its diet and reproduction. Habitat protection can be through regulatory measures (creation of parks and reserves) but also through incentives such as subsidies, tax breaks and technical assistance.
When some habitats have been destroyed, it is sometimes possible to reconstruct such as planting trees, creating wetlands, or simply abandoning their operation or the operator of a less traumatic for the community.
IUCN regularly draws a "red list" identifying endangered species. According to the latest, the 2000 Red List, 24% of mimmifères, 12% of birds, 25% of reptiles, 20 amphibians and 30%% of fish are threatened. The distribution of endangered species is very different from one continent to another or from one country to another. Indonesia, India, and China leBrésil are among the countries with the largest number of threatened mammals and birds.

Donald, Baur, William, Irvin (2010) “Endangered Species Act: law, policy, and perspectives” American Bar Association

Fitzsimmons, Allan,(1999) “Defending illusions: federal protection of ecosystems” Rowman&Littlefield 


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