Should the Endangered Species Act Be Strengthened?

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“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.”-President Richard Nixon

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is one of the most popular and effective environmental laws ever enacted. It is a commitment by the American people to work together to protect and restore those species that are most at risk of extinction. We humans have always been a part of nature. We evolved in wilderness among plants and animals that have existed for thousands of years. Unfortunately, the natural systems we depend on are at risk, and plants and animals worldwide are disappearing. In the United States alone, hundreds of plant and animal species, including the eastern elk, the passenger pigeon, and the California grizzly bear, have become extinct since the time of the first European settlements. In fact, scientists estimate that 539 species have gone extinct in the United States in the past 200 years. But the Endangered Species Act provides us with hope that we can not only slow these extinctions but also restore our native wildlife. The ESA provides common sense and balanced solutions for government agencies, landowners, and concerned citizens to protect and restore endangered species and their habitat. It is based on three key elements—listing species as threatened or endangered, designating habitat essential for their survival and recovery, and ultimately restoring healthy populations of the species so they can be removed from the list. The protection afforded by the ESA currently extends to over 1,250 species, and most of them have completely recovered, partly recovered, had their habitat protected, or had their populations stabilized or increased as a result. As important, millions of acres of forests, beaches, and wetlands—those...
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