Thursday, March 12, 2009

Does the Endangered Species Act work?

The gray wolf is no longer endangered in most of the US. This is the decision of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in removing the wolf from the endangered species list.

Much has been said about the "failure" of the US Endangered Species Act, primarily by critics who think the ESA creates too many problems for landowners and resource developers. One claim is that the ESA is a failure because few species ever come off the list.

Well, an iconic species just came off the list, thanks to a very large, important and controversial recovery program. Gray wolves have recovered and they're off the endangered list. Hooray! Quoting from new Interior Secretary Ken Salazar:
“The recovery of the gray wolf throughout significant portions of its historic range is one of the great success stories of the Endangered Species Act.”
But wait. Another group of critics from the other side say the ESA doesn't work, because agencies stop short of full recovery and take species off the list too quickly.

The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife , and other environmental groups will sue to prevent delisting of the gray wolf. These groups and others believe that gray wolves are still endangered and still need the protection of the US government. They don't trust states to do the job.

I don't know enough about gray wolves to have an independent opinion on their status as endangered or not. But I am happy that the trend is in the right direction for gray wolves.

Gray wolves were in deep trouble in the 1970s. There were only a few hundred--all in northern Minnesota and one island in northern Michigan. Now there are several thousand spread over a much larger range, in the upper midwest and northern Rocky Mountains.

This is a success of the Endangered Species Act, and a testament to successful government action in achieving a difficult task. Critics on both sides have reason to complain, but we all have reason to cheer. Let the litigation go on, but meanwhile let's not forget to celebrate the (partial) recovery of the gray wolf!

1 comment:

David J. Hirsh said...

A good post, Marc. Since this subject is the center of my work and I consider myself a national expert in the law, I have much to say. I also have my hands full today and through the weekend, so unfortunately I might not get a chance to comment.

Have a great weekend. For that matter, have one for me since I'll be working the whole time.