Defenders of Wildlife Launches Center for Conservation Innovation



Contact: Jennifer Witherspoon, 202-772-0269,


Defenders of Wildlife Launches Center for Conservation Innovation

WASHINGTON (March 30, 2017)Defenders of Wildlife is proud to announce the launch of the Center for Conservation Innovation (CCI), a new initiative to improve endangered species conservation in the United States, especially under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). CCI will use data, technology and interdisciplinary approaches to pioneer innovative and pragmatic solutions to conservation problems. As part of this launch, CCI has created the largest searchable database of ESA documents, ESAdocs Search, spanning nearly 14,000 documents and growing.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, CEO and President of Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement:

“Through the Center for Conservation Innovation, we are demonstrating the art of the possible. Everyone from Starbucks to Harvard University has taken big data online. We don’t want conservation to be left behind. The Center for Conservation Innovation will constantly innovate new tools to make endangered species conservation swifter, more transparent, more collaborative and more effective. I’m very proud of Defenders of Wildlife today.”

Ya-Wei Li, Vice President of Endangered Species Conservation and Director of the new Center for Conservation Innovation for Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement:

“We’re ushering wildlife conservation into the 21st century. The Center for Conservation Innovation will help us identify new ways to protect and recover endangered species in the United States. Yesterday’s approaches are inadequate to solve tomorrow’s problems; the next generation of wildlife policies and practices needs to rise to meet those challenges. The Endangered Species Act is the strongest conservation law in the world and our primary tool for protecting species and their habitat. But inadequate funding, knowledge gaps, risk aversion, climate change, and many other challenges threaten to cripple its effectiveness.

 “With the opening of the Center, we are releasing several tools including our flagship application ESAdocs Search, the largest searchable database of ESA documents. It’s free to use and already has nearly 14,000 documents, including every recovery plan and species status review ever written and thousands of ESA permits. We expect that conservation managers across the country -- including the Department of Defense, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies, conservation organizations, and universities -- will find ESAdoc Search valuable. This tool builds on our prior work to make ESA decisions accessible, such as our Section 7 Consultation Explorer app, and is just one example of how technology and innovations can improve the ESA’s effectiveness. 

“We have more access to scientific and administrative information now than ever before. ESAdocs Search brings thousands of data sources together to allow us to answer many important questions about endangered species, from Cook Inlet beluga whales to Indiana bats. Is the species recovering? What improvements can be made to their recovery plan? And what conservation measures are working? ESAdocs Search and other CCI projects will help us answer these critical questions, find real-world solutions and move wildlife conservation forward.

“We will be creating more partnerships and innovations through the Center for Conservation Innovation, all to improve the conservation of endangered wildlife. We are grateful to Google and Microsoft who have provided the technology that is helping to power ESAdocs and other Center for Conservation Innovation applications. Our aim is to build on the many decades of wildlife conservation done by Defenders of Wildlife.”



At the Center for Conservation Innovation, we pursue untapped opportunities to improve wildlife conservation, including:

·         Technology, such as our online apps to improve species recovery planning.

·         Data, such as our use of satellite images to determine if land developers are complying with their ESA permits.

·         Combining data and technology, such as our novel methods to analyze thousands of ESA decisions to fill knowledge gaps and improve conservation outcomes.

·         Integrating disparate fields, such as technology, law and social sciences.

Featured Tools:

·         ESAdocs Search: Search the largest public database of ESA documents, which includes all recovery plans and five-year reviews, and many biological opinions and conservation plans.

·         ESA Funding: Learn how much funding Congress and states give to conserve ESA species.

·         ESA Listings: All ESA species organized by listing year, taxonomic group, geography and more.

·         Section 7 explorer: Explore the results of every U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service consultation under section 7 of the ESA since 2008.

·         Interactive Maps: Use our interactive online maps to learn about activities affecting endangered species. You can also print and share custom maps.

·         Development webpage: We have created other tools to help everyone understand endangered species decisions. You can find those tools and working research papers on our development page.

Featured Publications:

·         Section 7 consultations: Our Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study on the results of every U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ESA consultation from 2008 through April 2015.

·         Recovery planning timeframe: the most comprehensive study on the timeliness of ESA recovery planning.

·         Special 4(d) rules: a review of every species-specific 4(d) rule through May 2016, with recommendations on better ways to apply the rules.

·         Tracking species status: our proposal to improve how federal wildlife agencies track the conservation status of ESA species.


Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 1.2 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 and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.