By Dr. Mark Rockwell, Endangered Species Coalition
May 20th is the 6th annual Endangered Species Day in America. The U.S. Senate is working on a resolution to mark the day nationally, and the S.F. Bay Area will be having several events throughout the weekend (see info below). The Endangered Species Coalition started this special day six years ago to recognize the need to protect species on the verge of extinction, as well as to bring attention to the importance of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and its responsibility to protect threatened and endangered fish, wildlife and plants.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) 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. Scientists have estimated that 539 species have gone extinct in the U.S. over the past 200 years. The Endangered Species Act now provides us with hope that we can make a difference and slow or stop this from happening, and also restore our native wildlife.
The Endangered Species Act provides common sense and balanced solutions for government agencies, landowners and businesses to protect and restore endangered species and still allow economic activity to proceed. It is based on three key elements– determining if a species is threatened or endangered (listing), designating habitat essential for its survival and recovery (critical habitat), and restoring healthy populations so they can be removed from the list (recovery plan). Currently, we have more than 1,250 species protected, as well as millions of acres of forests, beaches and wetlands protected to support the animals’ survival and recovery. Oversight and management of the ESA is the responsibility of our federal fish and wildlife agencies– U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service.
Recently (2011) the Endangered Species Coalition commissioned a national survey to assess if the public still supports the Endangered Species Act. Once again, more than 80% of the public supports protection of endangered species. As President Nixon said upon signing the ESA into law, “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.” The ESA was conceived in America, and now serves as the prototype law copied worldwide as the way to protect our global wildlife heritage.
Endangered Species Day events in the San Francisco area can be found at the below web links. Take a few hours and come to a local event, and bring the family.
– S.F. Bay National Wildlife Refuge
– Golden Gate National Park in S.F. & Marin County
– Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary
Visit www.endangeredspeciesday.org for more information on events locally and nationally.
Endangered species pictured (from top): Albatross, Black Abalone, and California Condor.