Endangered Species Act
"I have today signed ...the
Endangered Species Act of 1973. At a time when Americans are more
concerned than ever with conserving our natural resources, this
legislation provides the Federal Government with the needed authority to
protect an irreplaceable part of our national heritage - threatened
"This important measure grants the
Government both the authority to make early identification of endangered
species and the means to act quickly and thoroughly to save them from
extinction. It also puts into effect the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna signed in Washington
on March 3, 1973.
"Nothing is more priceless
and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with
which our country has been blessed. It is a many-faceted treasure,
of value to scholars, scientists, and nature lovers alike, and it forms a
vital part of the heritage we all share as Americans.
the 93rd Congress for taking this important step toward protecting a
heritage which we hold in trust to countless future generations of our
fellow citizens. Their lives will be richer, and America will be
more beautiful in the years ahead, thanks to the measure that I have the
pleasure of signing into law today."
-Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994)
37th President of the
Statement made on signing the Endangered Species Act,
San Clemente, California, 28 December 1973
The Endangered Species Act is one of
President Nixon's greatest legacies to America. Yet, sadly, this law
itself is now endangered.
Well-funded extremist groups and
their corporate sponsors seek to cut down ancient
forests, mine rocks and drill for oil in America's wilderness preserves.
In order to orchestrate public support for their cause, these groups
regularly disseminate false and misleading information about endangered species
issues and perennially pressure congress to weaken the act.
One of the most notorious propagandists
that writes in support of these groups is Kimberley Strassel of the
Wall Street Journal, who claims that the
Endangered Species Act "fails both species and humans." The facts,
however, show that this law has saved many species from extinction and
continues to protect what President Nixon called "a heritage which we hold
in trust to countless future generations of our fellow citizens."
The act has also protected and created thousands of jobs.
For example, a recent study found that
only 35% of species given protection under the Endangered Species Act were still declining 13 years or more after they had
given protection (Male and Bean 2005).
And some of these declines were attributed, in part, to failures of government
agencies to "meet statutory deadlines to list and de-list species,
designate critical habitat, publish and revise recovery plans, and develop
landowner incentives." Earlier listing of threatened and endangered
species, and "prompt provision of critical habitat and recovery plans" is
recommended by ecologists who have studied this problem in detail (Taylor
et al. 2005).
Another threat comes from
anti-environmental congressmen who block funding for restoration programs.
Their failure to fund these important programs prevents many species from
recovering and condemns them to permanent listing as endangered species.
A study by Miller et al. (2002) shows that the Endangered Species Act could be far more successful if
adequate funding was provided by congress.
Richard Nixon first rose to prominence in mid-twentieth century with the support of Theodore Roosevelt's influential daughter
Alice, who recommended to Dwight Eisenhower that he choose Nixon as his
running-mate. Like Roosevelt, Nixon made environmental preservation
a high priority of his presidency. Besides signing the Endangered
Species Act into law, he founded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
preserved important wilderness areas and helped pioneer the concept of using international cooperation to
solve global environmental problems (See Stockholm
Male TD, Bean MJ (2005)
Measuring progress in US endangered species conservation. Ecology
Letters 8: 968-992
Miller JK, Scott JM, Miller CR, Waits LP
(2002) The Endangered Species Act: Dollars and sense?
BioScience 52: 163-168
Taylor MFJ, Suckling KF, Rachlinski JJ
(2005) The effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act: A
quantitative analysis. BioScience 55: 360-367
Photograph: the green sea turtle (Chelonia
mydas) is one of many species of wildlife that has benefited from
the Endangered Species Act. This and other species of sea turtles
frequently visit "cleaning stations" on coral reefs, where
resident fishes will eat algae growing on the turtles' shell, as well as molting skin and ecto-parasites
from the turtles' head and fins. The above photo was taken while diving in Hawaii by Chris LaCroix