Endangered Species Act Still A Failure

Washington, DC, May 6, 1998 — Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt’s announcement today that some two dozen species will be delisted under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a thinly veiled effort to disguise the Act’s failure to save species. “Babbitt’s announcement is about saving face, not saving species,” said CEI Research Associate Brian Seasholes. “The ESA has failed to recover a single species, not one.”

The explicit purpose of the ESA is to recover species so that they no longer need the Act’s protection. In the quarter century since the ESA’s passage, it has failed to recover a single species. To date, twenty-seven species have been delisted, yet not one is a bona fide ESA success. “The few that have recovered did so in spite of the ESA, not because of it,” said Seasholes.

Before today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claimed that the ESA recovered eleven species. But upon examination, it is clear that none of these species are ESA recoveries. All eleven never should have been listed or improved for reasons other than the ESA. For example:

  • The FWS claims the rydberg milk-vetch, a species of plant, recovered despite the fact that the agency’s own experts admit the species was too abundant to merit protection.
  • The American alligator was also too abundant to merit protection, but was listed by the FWS to use this species to help facilitate passage of the ESA.
  • The gray whale was protected from hunting by the switch from whale oil to kerosene lamps in the early 1900s and by international treaties dating back to 1937 and 1946, not the ESA.

The bald eagle and the peregrine falcon are among those species expected to be delisted. Yet the most important factor in these species’ resurgence was the banning of the pesticide DDT in 1972, one year prior to the ESA’s enactment. The falcon was also helped by the Peregrine Fund, a private non-profit organization.

“The time has come for Inside-the-Beltway environmental activists to care more about saving endangered species than saving the Endangered Species Act,” said Seasholes. “It is time to have an honest appraisal of the ESA’s record.”

CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan research and advocacy institute dedicated to the principles of free markets and limited government. For more information, contact Emily McGee at 202-331-1010.