NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Interest Groups Affect Endangered Species Listing

June 25, 1999

Interest groups influence regulatory agencies even though agencies do not answer directly to the public. Take the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which oversees listing species as endangered through the authority granted in the 1973 Endangered Species Act. Although the Act clearly defines the procedures FWS takes in qualifying species as endangered, a recent study indicates that interest groups are instrumental in either slowing or speeding up the process, which can ultimately determine whether a species becomes listed.

Listing and protecting certain species has a diverse range of environmental benefits, conversely, costs arise for those who live or work near the creature's habitat, or who want to develop land nearby. In their quest to influence the decision, these interests can pressure the agency by submitting petitions, providing substantial information supporting or opposing the case for listing a species, and threatening to sue the FWS if they move too slowly on the case.

  • A supporting petition shortens the process by over a year.
  • Petitioned species are 37 percent less likely to face setbacks in the process.

In addition, interested parties can request that their legislators act on their behalf, presenting their position to the FWS. While another study found most legislators favor the concerns of those who bear the costs of listing species as endangered, such as landowners, representatives from so-called "green" districts are more likely to favor conservation efforts.

  • Species from regions represented by proconservation or "green" legislators are promoted out of the first stages of the process over 2.5 years earlier than those without such advocates.
  • Species from the above regions are also 73 percent less likely to face procedural setbacks than other species.
  • On the other hand, candidate species in areas with pro- landowner representatives spend more than an extra year in the process.

Source: Amy Whritenour Ando, "Waiting to be Protected Under the Endangered Species Act: The Political Economy of Regulatory Delay," Volume XLII, No. 1, Part 1, April 1999, Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Law School, 1111 East 60th Street, Chicago, Ill. 60637.


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