Animals and plants, humans included, thrive together in one gigantic ecosystem – the planet Earth. However, the human capacity to think and create beyond what nature provides simply puts us at the top of the food chain, and the rest of nature’s creatures at our mercy.
Although some natural phenomena do account for the depletion or extinction of some species, as in the case of destructive volcanic eruptions and other perfect storms, most of human activities are so devastating to nature that it remains the major cause of animal extinction.
What is the Endangered Species Act (ESA)?
The ESA, enacted in 1973, is among several environmental laws passed in the 70s in a comprehensive goal to protect more than 2,000 species in danger of extinction across the United States. It is administered primarily by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and partly by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
Under the ESA, more than 1,800 species of plants and animals have been identified as either endangered or threatened. Out of this number, 1,320 occur in the US, and the rest in US territories and elsewhere. Proper identification helps in the assessment of the risk of extinction and understanding of the species’ habitat.
What Makes the ESA Controversial?
During the Supreme Court Review and even after the enactment of ESA, critics pointed to a number of reasons why said law is debatable. For one, the provision in the act that states, “to halt and reverse the trend towards species extinction, whatever the cost” could mean setting aside some human rights in lieu of animal and plant rights.
In addition, the ESA imposes harsh penalties for violations. It impedes the right to construct and build in places where listed species may be thriving or if such activity threatens the health and survival of listed species.
Legal funding for the ESA ended on October 1, 1992, but Congress continues to allocate annual funds for corresponding projects until the present. Monetary issues always raise eyebrows among those with opposing interest, particularly those in power.
List of Pros of the Endangered Species Act
The Endangered Species Act, at the onset, appears like a sound law that benefits Mother Nature as a whole. But what makes ESA beneficial specifically?
1. Protects the Environment
The ESA is a law founded on protecting the environment as a whole by safeguarding species under threat of extinction and penalizing those who harm them. Humans are the most intelligent and most innovative species, making other species vulnerable to destructive human activities. The ESA is just one of the laws that discipline and guide humans to act with compassion and consideration for other species, specifically those at the brink of extinction.
2. Raises Awareness
Identification and listing of threatened species promotes awareness, educating people of the different kinds of animals and plants that need utmost protection. Not many people recognize that the species they are neglecting or destroying are in fact about to go extinct.
3. Restores Ecological Balance
Unlike majority of the species in the environment, humans tend to go to the extreme, causing ecological imbalance. The ESA helps to restore ecological balance by imposing heavy penalties on violators. Endangered species can then start to thrive and multiply because the law penalizes those that harm such species.
4. Provides Sense of Pride
Most endangered species of plants and animals are endemic to certain locations or regions. It means that these species cannot be found elsewhere, and have very specific habitats. These highly exclusive species are therefore a great sense of pride to the local people who live nearby or with the species. In addition, the ability to preserve and protect these regional plants and animals is a great honor, a feat less likely to achieve without the ESA.
List of Cons of the Endangered Species Act
Of course, there are two sides to a controversial issue. Here, we outline and discuss briefly four of the disadvantages of the Endangered Species Act.
1. Interferes Social Progress
Because the ESA prohibits construction and building, or even dwelling, in areas identified as natural habitats for endangered species, it becomes an issue for those who need to cultivate or develop the land as part of their livelihood.
2. Totalitarian and Very Restrictive
The ESA is very restrictive in nature. Anyone who threatens a listed species ultimately becomes a criminal. It provides no other option but to leave endangered species alone, or pay. The lack of flexibility makes the ESA a potential threat to tourism, land management, residents, and ultimately to the species it intends to protect.
3. Very Expensive
Researches, land surveys, and rehabilitative efforts all require a hefty sum of money. Although the legal funding for the ESA ceased in October 1992, the Congress continues to funnel taxpayer money into its projects, without the assurance of getting any measurable economic benefit. The ESA is not a good channel, investment wise.
4. Threatens Private Property Ownership
As mentioned, the ESA mandates everyone to avoid doing any harm to endangered species and to leave them be regardless if such species threaten human life. This does not sit very well with owners of private lands who need to sweep their property clean from aggressive or destructive wild animals such as venomous snakes and bane pests.
What is the Score?
The ESA is no doubt a contentious topic. Although it stands to protect under-threat species, it seems to overlook the rights of humans to social and economic progress, and to an extent, survival. Humans, plants and animals all live under a single, unified habitat. Therefore, there is a way for all of us to thrive without harming each other to extinction.
The ESA could be a good start for humans to do their part in protecting Mother Nature, but it is far from perfect. By looking at the pros and cons of Endangered Species Act, it does need some polishing before it can ultimately become an effective tool for protecting not just the rights of listed species, but also, ultimately, those of humans and the entire population of natural creatures.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.