Endangered Species Act Definition Under Debate

Endangered Species

Endangered Species Act is defined as any species “in danger of extinction in all or a significant of portion of its range.” A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal wants to change the Endangered Species Act definition to add a five-word phrase that is in the definition of endangered but not in the act. The phrase “significant portion of its range” is not defined in the Endangered Species Act, but appears in the definition of “endangered species” and “threatened species” in the Act.

This has the groups and scientists debating because it means that the species are not at the risk of extinction for as long as protection of Federal Government is provided to them. The phrase will help the species that are at the risk of extinction to be protected anywhere they live as long as it’s under the federal protection.

The agency says the policy would state that the FWS and NOAA Fisheries could list a species if it is endangered or threatened in a “significant portion of its range,” even if that species is not endangered or threatened throughout all its range.

Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said, “This proposed interpretation will provide consistency and clarity for the services and our partners, while making more effective use of our resources and improving our ability to protect and recover species before they are on the brink of extinction. By taking action to protect imperiled native fish, wildlife and plants, we can ensure a healthy future for our communities and protect treasured landscapes for future generations.”

Eric Schwaab, NOAA’s assistant administrator for fisheries said, “A clear and consistent policy will help our partners and improve the process of evaluating species status under the Endangered Species Act.”

Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity said, “If this policy had been in place when the Endangered Species Act was passed, the bald eagle would never have been protected in any of the lower 48 states, because there were still a lot of eagles up in Alaska.”

Scientists state, “This definition fails to provide a meaningful distinction between a species that is endangered in a SPOIR (significant of portion of its range) and a species that is endangered in all of its range, which will likely result in species that are endangered in portions of their range not receiving protection.”

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has long been criticized for only protecting species on the very brink of extinction, which makes recovery a difficult uphill slog. This policy would actually codify that approach, essentially saying let’s delay protection for these creatures until they’re in absolutely dire straits,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

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