Washington, DC

A group of 30 local, regional and national conservation organizations today recognized the Nez Perce Tribe, the Yurok Tribe, Bat Conservation International, Hawaii’s Plant Extinction Prevention Program, Jane Goodall, the Sea Turtle Conservancy and members of Congress for their major contributions to protecting and supporting the Endangered Species Act and their work to conserve and recover threatened and endangered species. 

The conservation organizations granting the awards are: American Bird Conservancy, Audubon, Buffalo Field Campaign, Dona ana Village Association, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, The Endangered Species Conservation Site, Environment America, Four Paws, Friends of Blackwater, Humane Action Pittsburgh, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Lobos of the Southwest, National Wildlife Federation, NYC Plover Project, Ocean Preservation Society, Oregon Wild, Rocky Mountain Wild, Save the Manatee, Sierra Club, The Humane Society of the United States, Western Watersheds Project, Western Wildlife Outreach, WildEarth Guardians, Wolf Conservation Center and World Wildlife Fund. 

“For 50 years, the Endangered Species Act has been our safety net for fish, plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “As we look to the next 50 years, we owe it to future generations to strengthen our wildlife conservation legacy."

Passed with bipartisan support and signed into law in 1973, the Endangered Species Act is a landmark law that has prevented 99% of the species it protects from going extinct and has put hundreds more on the path to recovery. More than 50 species have been recovered and are thriving in the wild once again, including the bald eagle, the peregrine falcon and more than 50 others. 

The Nez Perce Tribe is recognized for being the first tribe to work with the federal government to oversee the statewide recovery of an endangered species, and for their work to recover and monitor gray wolves, bring Coho salmon back to the Clearwater River and protect imperiled wolverine and lynx. The Nez Perce Tribe has also been an instrumental leader in the fight to breach the lower four Snake River dams to save salmon populations from extinction.

Additionally, their Camas to Condors program (a landscape-scale climate resilience initiative) is in the early stages of reintroducing California condors to Nez Perce ancestral territory. This is focused on whole-systems restoration for resilience, justice and cultural survival.

“The value of the reserved treaty rights of the Nez Perce Tribe are inextricably linked with the health and abundance of the flora and fauna on the land and in the water,” stated Mr. Shannon F. Wheeler, Chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee. “The protections provided under the Endangered Species Act have been pivotal in protecting against extinction of many keystone species and are an invaluable tool in helping fulfill the Tribe’s obligation to preserve and protect the fish, plants, and animals who cannot speak for themselves.”

The Yurok Tribe is recognized for its leadership reintroducing the iconic California condor into Yurok ancestral territory in Northern California after over a century-long absence on the landscape. The current reintroduction partnership between the Yurok Tribe, National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a great example of how working together can begin to restore the balance and biodiversity that existed prior to Euro-American colonization to promote a thriving ecology for the benefit of wildlife and humans.

The Yurok Tribe is also a key player in the fight to breach dams in the Klamath River Basin. This multi-dam deconstruction is the world’s largest fish restoration project and will free hundreds of miles of habitat for endangered salmon populations. 

"Tribes have long been champions for species conservation and restoration and the Yurok Tribe is pleased to see growing recognition of the critical role Tribes play in it. We are happy to celebrate this milestone for the ESA, the partnerships it fosters, and all it has brought to biodiversity conservation,” said Tiana Williams-Claussen, director of the Yurok Tribe Wildlife Department.

For their long history of championing imperiled species and the Endangered Species Act in our nation’s capital, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) were also recognized. 

“The destiny of humanity is intertwined with the destiny of our fellow creatures. Over the past 50 years the Endangered Species Act has been a lifeline for dozens of species on the brink of extinction. This is a moment both for celebration and to rededicate ourselves to the preservation of this critical law,” said Senator Cory Booker. 

“Our planet faces an unprecedented biodiversity crisis, closely linked to both our planet's health and our future as a species. This is why Congress must continue taking bold action to enhance our conservation efforts, including by strengthening the Endangered Species Act which has been a vital tool in preserving our wildlife and ecosystems. I'm deeply honored to receive this award recognizing my commitment to biodiversity protection, and look forward to continue advocating for full funding for the Endangered Species Act so that our country can adequately address the biodiversity crisis. As stewards of this planet, it is our duty to preserve its biodiversity for future generations and I'm proud to lead on this issue in the US House as co-chair of the Congressional Endangered Species Caucus,” said Representative Don Beyer.

“The Endangered Species Act has been our most successful tool to protect America’s imperiled wildlife, preventing the extinction of 99 percent of the species it covers, including beloved animals like the bald eagle, grizzly bear, and Florida manatee. But 50 years later, there are people who want to undermine these cornerstone protections and return us to the times when we were destroying our natural treasures. We must always remain vigilant to defend and expand the protections of the Endangered Species Act, and we can never take our environmental safeguards for granted,” said Representative Debbie Dingell.

“This year, as we celebrate 50 years of the Endangered Species Act, its role in maintaining biodiversity is more important than ever, especially as we face the dual crises of climate change and mass extinction. From safeguarding critical habitat to creating recovery plans, the Endangered Species Act has facilitated the recovery of species like the humpback whale and bald eagle, while also protecting iconic species like grizzly bears, sea turtles and jaguars. This milestone is certainly a time for celebration, but let it also stand as a reminder to reinvigorate our fight for species and their habitats for the next 50 years and beyond,” said Representative Raúl M. Grijalva.

“For 50 years, the ESA has been a critical tool for recovering dwindling species populations. Every community in our country has this law to thank for protecting iconic plants and animals in their region. In my home state of California, Chinook salmon, the Northern Spotted Owl, the California condor, and countless other creatures and plants are still around because of the ESA,” said Representative Jared Huffman. “Despite an impressive record of success, the ESA is constantly under attack by House Republicans’ extinction agenda. The last thing we should be doing is trying to tear down the ESA. As long as I'm in Congress, I will continue to be a fervent supporter of this consequential law and do everything within my power to protect it.” 

Bat Conservation International is working with a diverse network of partners to bring the federally endangered Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) back from the brink of extinction. By protecting roosts and increasing nectar forage resources along their migratory pathway from the Southwest U.S. to Mexico, their initiatives work at a landscape-scale to protect and restore healthy, functioning, biodiverse ecosystems that support local livelihoods through community enterprises and sustainable agriculture.

"On this 50th Anniversary of the ESA we are proud to stand together with the conservation community and celebrate the many species we have helped bring back from the brink of extinction,” said Dr. Jon Flanders, Director, Endangered Species Intervention for Bat Conservation International. “One example is the lesser long-nosed bat which was delisted in 2018 due to the success of recovery efforts."

Hawai‘i’s Plant Extinction Prevention Program is a highly successful program that focuses on emergency actions, captive propagation and reintroduction efforts for those species closest to the brink of extinction — Hawaiian plants that have 50 or fewer individuals left in the wild. More than 200 of the rarest plant species in the world receive emergency-room actions under this program. No plant has gone extinct since its inception. The Plant Extinction Prevention Program has already saved dozens of species from extinction and helped reintroduce more than 110 species into native forests. 

“The success of our program results from the hard work of countless passionate individuals and the highly collaborative efforts among the different local communities, NGO’s, and state, county, and federal organizations,” said Dr. Cliff Morden, Deputy Director of the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit.   

"Although Hawaii has long been regarded as the endangered species capital of the world, through our conservation actions we hope to one day be recognized as the biosecurity capital of the world,” said Scott Heintzman, Manager at the Kauai Plant Extinction Prevention Program.

Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) and UN Messenger of Peace, is a world-renowned ethologist and activist inspiring greater understanding and action on behalf of the natural world. Dr. Goodall is known for groundbreaking studies of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania, which forever changed our understanding of our relationship to the rest of the animal kingdom. The transformative research continues today as the longest running wild chimpanzee study in the world. Goodall's work builds on scientific innovations, growing a lifetime of advocacy including trailblazing efforts through her international organization the Jane Goodall Institute which advances community-led conservation, animal welfare, science and youth empowerment through JGI’s Roots & Shoots program. Dr. Goodall is a global icon spreading hope and turning it into meaningful positive impact to create a better world for people, other animals and the planet we share. 

Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) is the world’s oldest sea turtle conservation and research organization. Since 1959, the organization’s research programs have yielded much of what is now known about sea turtles and the threats they face, to improve conservation and recovery of these marine and coastal species. The Sea Turtle Conservancy has a strong focus on research and public education and is working to understand and combat major threats to sea turtles, such as beach lighting impacts, coastal armoring, international harvest for consumption and bycatch in fisheries. 

“On behalf of the STC, we are tremendously honored to be recognized for our decades of work on behalf of threatened and endangered marine turtles,” said David Godfrey, STC Executive Director. “Without question, the Endangered Species Act is the single most effective tool for protecting sea turtles in the United States and giving them a chance to survive. As we mark the 50th anniversary of the ESA, it is important to celebrate the progress made in recovering sea turtle populations in the U.S. In fact, just this year we are seeing record levels of nesting by both green turtles and loggerhead turtles, which is a testament to the effectiveness 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.

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