On Saturday, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
This important law enacted some of the first comprehensive guidelines to protect animals from extinction, in an effort to protect the rich heritage found in creatures that roam our planet and the ecosystems they depend on to live. We know the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been successful because of the species that have been delisted from protection, including the Columbian white-tailed deer, California condor, bull trout, gray whale and so many others.
This nation has a long and proud tradition of respect for our wildlife and natural resources. The strength and vitality of our environment, and thus our own health and well-being, is inextricably linked to the health and well-being of other species.
I was proud to be a lead author of this important legislation. Without it, there might not be a single bald eagle or peregrine falcon in our skies. No manatees or cutthroat trout in our waters and no gray wolves or grizzly bears in our forests. This monumental legislation has, quite literally, saved our natural heritage during its 40 years. The ESA has served as the foundation for the protection of thousands of America’s most cherished and ecologically important species.
Our country was the first to say that only natural extinction is part of natural order; extinction caused by human neglect and interference is not. Science is at the core of the ESA, and should remain so. Congress determined at that time that when dealing with matters as important as our national environmental policy, nonpartisan action is what we should strive for.
Sadly, partisan bickering and political agendas threaten to return us to the times when we were destroying our great natural treasures. I am saddened to report that this cornerstone environmental law is in greater peril now than it has been in its 40-year history. From efforts to defund the agencies that oversee its implementation, to the forces that work to find and exploit loopholes in the law to put industry profits ahead of our planet, defending the ESA will require a diligence the likes of which we have not witnessed before. But we must fight against these challenges, and know these challenges threaten to roll back years of progress. More....