The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (also known as ESA) is an environmental law in the United States that aims to protect plants and animals — particularly those that are considered to be endangered species — and prevent them from going extinct. The Act had succeeded several environmental policies including the Lacey Act of 1900 and the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, and it was succeeded by the Endangered Species Act of 1982 and the 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act.
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 was signed into reality by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973. Nixon thought that the current environmental laws at the time were inadequate, and he called upon the Congress to create a policy that would provide better protection to endangered species. They came up with the ESA, which was written by a team made of scientists and lawyers and is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
The ESA has garnered many proponents over the years, but there are also those who think that the act isn’t really effective. To decide which side you should be on, you must first know about the pros and cons of the Endangered Species Act.
List of Pros of The Endangered Species Act
1. It guides both the authorities and ordinary people.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of the Endangered Species Act is that it lets the authorities know exactly what they should do to protect endangered plants and animals. This leaves them with no doubt about the actions that they should take in case they catch someone who is selling an endangered animal or receive a report that a certain kind of plant is close to extinction. The ESA also gives people a clear idea of what would happen to them and how they would be punished in case they violate the law. This, in turn, discourages them from harming plants and animals, especially those that are endangered and close to extinction.
2. It boosts environmental awareness.
The very presence of the Endangered Species Act forces people to learn more about the environment. Teachers get to discuss why the ESA is important, and students learn why it’s necessary to protect plants and animals and prevent them from going extinct. Even adults become exposed to the concept of environmental protection through the ESA.
3. It criminalizes environmental abuse.
A lot of people think of the environment as a free source of food, entertainment, and income; they don’t really understand that everything they do — like selling exotic animals as pets and burning plants to create a clearing for planting crops — has a huge impact on Mother Nature. Fortunately, the Endangered Species Act puts a stop to these actions by criminalizing them. This way, people become discouraged to abuse the environment since doing so leads to a concrete punishment (e.g. paying a huge fine or even going to prison). It also punishes those who go against the law and protects plants and animals from those who don’t think twice about harming them.
4. It has protected many species.
Over the years, the Endangered Species Act has helped prevent the extinction of many plant and animal species. As of September 2012, for example, 28 species have been taken off the endangered list because their population has risen and they’re no longer in danger of becoming extinct. These include the bald eagle, the peregrine falcon, the whooping crane, the gray wolf, the red wolf, the black-footed ferret, and the grizzly bear.
List of Cons of The Endangered Species Act
1. It doesn’t have a high efficiency rate.
The Endangered Species Act may have been successful in saving several species, but many of its detractors point out that it’s not as effective as it should have been. They point out that, with more than 2,000 animals on the endangered species list, only 28 of them were taken off the list because their population has increased. The others were delisted because they either got re-classified from being “endangered” to “threatened” or became completely extinct. This means that the ESA has a success rate of only 1 percent in the 30 years that it has been around.
2. It has several loopholes.
The Endangered Species Act has several loopholes that many people have exploited. The Act, for instance, forbids people to do interstate and foreign transactions of endangered species but doesn’t have a rule against in-state transactions. This means that people can freely sell endangered plants and animals to individuals and businesses as long as the transaction is done within the state.
Another loophole is that the ESA allows endangered species to be shipped to other places provided that they’re not being sold. Technically, “sold” refers to a commercial exchange of goods and money, so people find a way around this by saying that they’re “donating” the plants or animals to just about anyone (mainly for breeding purposes). They can then receive “monetary donations” from the recipients. They’re selling endangered species for all intents and purposes, but they’re using different terminologies to hide their transactions from the authorities.
3. It’s hard to implement.
The Endangered Species Act supports a noble cause, but it’s still useless if the agencies responsible for administering it don’t have the manpower to do so. Apparently, this is the case as revealed by a US Fish and Wildlife Service specialist, who said that the agency didn’t have enough staff to do undercover operations and catch those who use the Act’s loopholes to smuggle endangered species.
Implementing the ESA also requires a substantial amount of money. The agencies involved need to have enough funds to survey lands and determine where endangered species grow or live. They also need to hire and train people to enforce the law and invest in tools and equipment to protect endangered plants and animals. Without enough money, the agencies won’t be able to do all of these and fulfill their duties of safeguarding the environment.
The Endangered Species Act is important in protecting Mother Nature and ensuring that endangered plants and animals don’t become extinct. However, a lot of work still needs to be done to properly enforce the law and safeguard the environment at a better and faster way.