Signed into law in 1973, the goal of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was to preserve, protect and recover key domestic species. However, today the law is failing to achieve its primary purpose of species recovery and instead has become a tool for litigation that drains resources away from real recovery efforts and blocks job-creating economic activities.
It has been 23 years since Congress has reauthorized or made any significant, responsible improvements to the Endangered Species Act to ensure that it works for both species and people. After more than two decades, the ESA should be modernized and updated to once again focus the law on true species recovery.
* In the United States, 1,383 species are listed under the ESA: 5828 animals and 795 plants.
* Of the domestic species protected by the ESA, the Fish and Wildlife Service has declared only 20 species recovered. This represents a 1 percent recovery rate.
* According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the average cost for the recovery of an endangered species is $15.9 million. The average cost of a complete listing decision is $85,000.
* The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated 97.8 million acres and 40,000 miles of coastal rivers and streams as “critical habitat” for 603 listed species. The cost of a single designation of critical habitat is $515,000.
* In the past ten years, Congress has appropriated $1.4 billion to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct ESA activities including listing, consultation and recovery efforts and $174.3 million to the National Marine Fisheries Service to undertake ESA related activities.
* In July 2011 the Interior Department agreed to a settlement that covered 779 species in 85 lawsuits and legal actions. Information obtained from agencies indicates that they have a combined total of over 180 pending ESA-related lawsuits.
* According to the Washington Post, “In fiscal 2010, the Fish and Wildlife Service spent so much of its $21 million listing budget on litigation and responding to petitions that it had almost no money to devote to placing new species under federal protection, according to agency officials.”