NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Endangered Species Act Programs, Same Result: Failure

May 28, 2002

According to a collection of papers in the journal "Ecological Applications," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) highly touted revised approach to endangered species recovery is working no better than their previous failed efforts. The FWS's previous approach was to develop a distinct recovery plan for each species at risk. This approach was not successful.

  • Of the more than 1,000 species listed in the U.S. as endangered, only 13 have recovered enough to be removed from the list.
  • The FWS and its supporters have blamed litigation aimed at forcing the FWS to list species and their critical habitat for siphoning off funding that could have been used to improve the science behind recovery plans and implement them.

More recently, the FWS adopted undertook major revisions to their approach to recovering species. In particular, they set aside critical habitat for multiple species within an area facing common threats. Unfortunately, studies are finding that the multiple species approach is perhaps even less successful than the single species plans. Analysis has revealed that species in multi-species plans were more likely than species in single species plans to be in decline. The reason seems to be that multispecies plans are "lighter on biology than single species plans." In other words, designating critical habitat for multiple species does not correlate to better data on the habitat or improved measures to preserve it.

Analysts fear that the failure of the FWS's new approach to species recovery endangers the success of high-profile recovery efforts such as their ambitious plan for the Florida Everglades and its 68 imperiled species.

Source: Ben Shouse, "Cherished Concepts Faltering in the Field" Science, May 17, 2002, pp.1219-1221.


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