December 28, 2019
Shayna Steingard

The end of December is one of the most wonderful times of the year - surrounded by loved ones, bright lights, and good food, in addition to celebrating everyone’s favorite holiday, the birthday of the Endangered Species Act (ESA)! 

Caribou in Denali
Lawrence Metz

Signed into law on December 28th, 1973 by President Richard Nixon, the ESA protects over 1600 threatened and endangered (T&E) species in the US alone. With overwhelming bipartisan support, the Act, a bedrock piece of environmental legislation, ushered in an era of federally mandated wildlife protection. 

Given the festive spirit of the week, with all the holidays and cheer, I was overcome with the urge to scribble a few lines in honor of the ESA on its birthday. 

‘Twas three nights after Christmas, through Senate and House,
Not a creature objected, ‘we must save the sage grouse!’;
The votes were cast on the Act with great care, 
In the hopes that ole Nixon would sign with fanfare;
The wildlife now safer, protected by the Fed;
While visions of scrub plums (yes, that’s endangered) through our nation would spread!
Successes for eagles and condors, they came,
As we listed, made findings, and called them by name:
“Now, darter! now, ocelot! Maybe island foxes and vixen?
On, petrel! on, plover! all the populations we’re fixin’! 
Onward we’re working, protecting, defending; 
Guarding each T & E species, on us they’re depending.
But hear us exclaim, ‘ere we start a new year—
“To the Act, Happy Birthday, we’ll keep fighting, PERSEVERE!” 

Bald Eagle
Stacy Ellenwood

In its 46 years, the ESA has accomplished quite a bit to be proud of! Notable victories include the rebounded populations of bald eagles, California condors, Atlantic piping plover, and grizzly bears, to name a few. Through its strength and flexibility, the ESA is the strongest tool to protect imperiled species. The Act gives power to two agencies to distribute protections to T&E species; the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), commonly called the Services. To ensure that valuable resources go to wildlife most in need, the species must meet one of five criteria related to the degree and source of the threat to its survival. The different sections of the Act outline the listing, protecting, and recovering threatened and endangered species.

Defenders of Wildlife works on several fronts to ensure that the Endangered Species Act and other conservation laws can continue to prevent extinctions and promote imperiled species’ recovery! We develop new ways to make these statutes more effective in our Center for Conservation Innovation, advocate to protect and increase federal funding, oppose all legislative attacks that would weaken them, and make sure that those responsible for implementing provisions and regulations are held accountable when they fail to enforce the laws. 

We hope that you and your families have an enjoyable holiday season as you celebrate the Endangered Species Act and all the wildlife and wild places that make our natural heritage special.


Shayna Steingard headshot

Shayna Steingard

Renewable Energy and Wildlife Policy Analyst
Shayna Steingard is the Coordinator for the Center for Conservation Innovation (CCI), joined Defenders in January 2019.

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