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Endangered Species Act

Critical Habitat, Taking, Experimental Populations, Proposed Reform, Further Readings

The federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) (16 U.S.C.A. §§ 1531 et seq.) was enacted to protect animal and plant species from extinction by preserving the ecosystems in which they survive and by providing programs for their conservation.

The act classifies species as either endangered or threatened. It defines an endangered species as one "in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range" (§ 1532). A threatened species is one that is "likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range" (§ 1532). A current detailed listing of endangered and threatened animal and plant species is provided in the CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS (see 50 C.F.R. §§ 17.11–.12). As of March 2003, the code listed approximately 1,260 endangered and threatened species (up from 1,000 in 1996). Between the years of 1995 and 2002, 12 species were removed from the list.

The ESA is administered by two agencies: the National Marine Fisheries Service, which designates marine fish and certain marine mammals, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has jurisdiction over all other wildlife. These agencies may list a species on their own initiative, or any interested person may submit a petition to have a species considered for listing. In either case, the act requires that the decision to include a species must be based solely on the "best scientific and commercial data available," following a review of the status of the species that takes into account any conservation efforts being made to protect the species (§ 1533 (b)(1)(A)).

If an emergency poses a significant risk to the well-being of a species of fish, wildlife, or plant, the secretary of the interior may bypass standard listing procedures and issue regulations that take effect immediately upon publication in the Federal Register. Emergency regulations remain in force for 240 days. To issue an emergency regulation, the secretary must publish detailed reasons why the regulation is necessary and notify the appropriate state agency in each state where the species is found (§ 1533 (b) (7)).

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