On the Edge of Extinction
by Frances Gavin, Publisher of Ooze Magazine
Posted on February 1, 2002
Mass extinction of species is not just a thing of the past. Many scientists estimate that approximately one dozen species are currently becoming extinct each day.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was intended to protect all species facing extinction, but some 300 are believed to have become extinct while the process of having them declared endangered was still underway. Furthermore, only about 24 species have benefited from the protections offered by the ESA to the point where they are generally no longer considered to be at risk.
A species will be declared endangered if it is threatened by habitat loss, overexploitation, disease and/or predation, and existing conservation mechanisms will not save it.
Some 1,300 species have been declared endangered. According to many biologists, there are at least 3,000 more in the United States that require protection. However, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which are responsible for declaring species as endangered, have only a few hundred pending, largely due to financial constraints.
Many private landowners make use of habitat conservation plans that allow for the destruction of endangered speciesí habitats in exchange for the implementation of some conservation measures. Such plans have led to more than 100 endangered species on private land being placed in jeopardy.
One example of this is the moving of the Utah prairie dog from its privately owned and high-quality habitat to a much lower-quality habitat. This has caused the population of the prairie dog to decline from more than 18,000 in 1972 to less than 1,250 today.
ESA violations are punishable by fines of up to $50,000, imprisonment for up to one year, or both.
In 1992, $10.2 million was spent on ESA enforcement, but by 1998, funding for it had been decreased to just $5.19 million.
President Bush is proposing a further 25 percent reduction.
Studies have shown that the population of a species usually does stabilize after it has been added to the endangered species list.
To maximize the effectiveness of the ESA, the protection of key species on which many others depend should be given priority. That way, the other species would benefit as well.
© 2002 Animal News Center, Inc.
Endangered Species Act of 1973
National Marine Fisheries Service