NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Endangered Species Act Revisions Still Needed

January 6, 2004

The main purpose of the 1973 Endangered Species Act is to protect species on the verge of extinction and to aid in their recovery; yet some consider it a failure, perhaps one of the worst environmental laws passed by the government. Over the past 30 years:

  • Only 30 species have been removed from the "endangered" list of over 1,000.
  • The primary reason for the removal of these species is their extinction and not their recovery through government efforts.
  • Much of the ESA's touted success involves species that were never actually endangered, or due to influences outside of the ESA.
  • Birds such as the bald eagle have more likely been helped by the 1972 ban on the pesticide DDT, not the ESA.
  • For example, North Carolina Timber owners log young trees before they grow large enough to entice endangered critters.
  • And a recent study found that landowners would not allow experts on their land to assess the Preble's meadow mouse population, fearing that ESA regulations would restrict use of their property.

An attempt by the Fish and Wildlife Service to revise the ESA to include "safe harbor" and "no surprises" protections for landowners was recently invalidated by a federal judge. There has been no major revision of the ESA since 1982, but Adler says the ESA must be fixed so that the federal government works with landowners, not against them.

Source: Jonathan Adler, "Bad for Your Land, Bad for the Critters," Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2003.

For WSJ text (requires subscription),,SB107283504618484600,00.html


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