40th Anniversary of The Endangered Species Act

NEW YORK – March 12, 2014

EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit organization that focuses on conservation and global public health issues, recognizes the 40th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act and the successes in wildlife recovery over the past four decades.  In 1973, the Endangered Species Act was signed into law, creating a new framework for the protection of wildlife from extinction and the preservation of natural ecosystems.  The Endangered Species Act has helped save countless iconic American species such as the bald eagle, grizzly bear, American alligator, California condor, and Steller’s sea lion.  Today, the Endangered Species Act protects more than 2,100 species of animals and plants.  Last year alone, more than 2,000 species were listed as endangered and on the brink of extinction and more than 1,400 species were listed as threatened and likely to become extinct.  “Wildlife in the U.S. and around the world has benefitted from the Endangered Species Act and our participation in CITES – the international agreement to work on the protection of species from extinction – has made a real difference in the welfare of many species,” said, Dr. Peter Daszak, President of EcoHealth Alliance and respected disease ecologist.

The goal of the Endangered Species Act is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend on for their survival.  The Act is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).  Under the Endangered Species Act, species may be listed as either endangered or threatened.  “Endangered” implies that a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.  A listing as “Threatened” means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.  “The Endangered Species Act has played an integral role in wildlife conservation for 40 years, giving us the ability to work with partners across the nation to prevent the extinction of hundreds of species, recover many others, and protect fragile habitat that supports both species and people,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe.  “We face enormous challenges as we seek to sustain and build on this success, which is why we’re committed to improving our ability to work collaboratively with landowners and other key stakeholders at a landscape scale.”

Some of the successes of the Endangered Species Act include the recovery of both bald eagle and gray wolf populations.  In the 1960s, the populations of bald eagles were estimated at fewer than 500 individuals.  Today, with the protection enacted by the Endangered Species Act, the population is soaring with a robust number of more than 7,000 breeding pairs.  The ban on DDT in the 1960s and 1970s was one of the main environmental protection actions taken to help save this iconic American species.  In the mid 1900s, the gray wolf had nearly disappeared in the lower 48 states.  After being listed as endangered, successful recovery programs over the course of many decades have brought wolves back to a population of more than 2,500 and are currently ranging in Yellowstone National Park once again.

Challenges in species protection still exist as emerging threats to wildlife including zoonotic disease, illegal wildlife trade, non-native species invasion and land-use changes are still affecting the health and habitats for many species.  “Today’s laws that were enacted decades ago need to be updated to address current environmental conditions and today’s realities,” said Dr. William B. Karesh, renowned wildlife veterinarian and Executive Vice President for Health and Policy at EcoHealth Alliance.  “The face of conservation when the Endangered Species Act was enacted was very different then compared to what scientists and conservationists are facing today.  Without this piece of legislation, we would be without many of the native American wildlife species we have in North America today and for this we celebrate the successes that have come forth,” Dr. Karesh continued.  EcoHealth Alliance is focused on protecting wildlife and the habitats needed for their survival while also working to safeguard public health from the rise in wildlife-borne diseases that can be transmitted to human populations.

About EcoHealth Alliance
Building on over 40 years of groundbreaking science, EcoHealth Alliance is a global, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and safeguarding human health from the emergence of disease.  The organization develops ways to combat the effects of damaged ecosystems on human and wildlife health.  Using environmental and health data covering the past 60 years, EcoHealth Alliance scientists created the first-ever, global disease hotspots map that identified at-risk regions, to help predict and prevent the next pandemic crisis. That work is the foundation of EcoHealth Alliance’s rigorous, science-based approach, focused at the intersection of the environment, health, and capacity building.  Working in the U.S. and more than 20 countries worldwide, EcoHealth Alliance’s strength is founded on innovations in research, training, global partnerships, and policy initiatives.  For more information, please visit www.EcoHealthAlliance.org.  


Press Contact: Anthony M. Ramos, ramos@ecohealthalliance.org, 212.380.4469