Washington, DC

A new analysis from Defenders of Wildlife’s Center for Conservation Innovation (CCI), finds that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service only receives about 40% of the funding required to fully implement the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  

“The ESA is one of the world’s strongest tools for species recovery and wildlife conservation, yet it is starving for resources,” said Meg Evansen, conservation science and policy analyst with Defenders of Wildlife’s Center for Conservation Innovation. “It takes people and money to help get species on the path to recovery. Funding at 40% makes it impossible for the agencies to develop and implement recovery plans, which leaves hundreds of species on the brink of extinction.” 

Currently, about 400 species already protected under ESA are missing a recovery plan altogether, and nearly 900 plans are outdated. In some cases the recovery plans are around 20 years old and include keystone species like the Southern sea otter.  Adequately funding the ESA would help ensure there are enough resources to develop, update, and carry out recovery plans for each species. Fully funding the ESA can also address the backlog of species awaiting a listing decision and help them get the critical protections they need.  

“Our planet and nation are facing an alarming and catastrophic biodiversity crisis – one million species are threatened with extinction,” said Lindsay Rosa, director of Defenders of Wildlife's Center for Conservation Innovation. “If we are going to successfully face this challenge, we need a strong ESA. Recovering species, saving nature and its benefits – these things won’t happen without adequate funding. For species in decline, a multi-year delay in protection or planning could bring them that much closer to extinction and make the Service’s job that much harder.”

To date, more than 95% of the species listed under the ESA have survived the threat of extinction and hundreds are on the path to recovery. In fact, more than 50 species have been removed from the list because it was determined they have recovered to the point where they no longer need the protections of the ESA.


Defenders of Wildlife is celebrating 75 years of protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With a nationwide network of nearly 2.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

Media Contact

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Vice President of Conservation Research and Innovation


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