Science

Endangered Species Act Turns 40: What You Need To know

By Enozia Vakil , May 20, 2013 10:36 AM EDT
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Numerous laws have been made to protect endangered species from vanishing from the face of the Earth, but there's something different about the Endangered Species Act, something that made it survive for 40 years, and makes it still relevant today.

"The Endangered Species Act is hands down one of the country's strongest conservation laws. As a result, we've saved hundreds of animals, plants, birds, and fish and protected thousands of acres of lands," executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition LedaHuta, said.

"We changed from being a country that drove species to extinction, extirpating billions of passenger pigeons by 1914, killing off the last known Caribbean monk seal by 1952, and losing the Atossa fritillary butterfly in 1960, to a nation that undertakes extraordinary means, at times, to protect some of our most fragile species."

This Act is particularly administered by both - the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - and works by first listing down the endangered species as threatened or endangered, and then striving hard to create a natural habitat for their survival, and restoring their population so that they could be removed from the endangered list.

In fact, through this restoration for one particular endangered species, they were able to create a positive impact on the entire ecological unit.

Huta claimed that once, when a grey wolf was restored to the Yellowstone National Park, the entire ecological unit was impacted positively, which is truly amazing.

"It changed the way that elk and deer behaved. They no longer hung out in wide open areas, over-grazing the vegetation. So, cottonwoods and willows returned to the riverbanks. That cooled off the temperature of the rivers," she said. "We saw fish returning to these stretches of river. The restored riparian (river-side) habitat also brought back birds, insects and beaver. The whole ecosystem came alive. And of course, the tourists came flocking to see the wolves, bringing economic benefits for the whole region," Huta said.

These wolves, which were on the verge of extinction, with only a few of them left in Michigan, got a protected environment at the Yellowstone National Park, and by the year 2008, there were more than 1,700 wolves in the Northern Rockies alone.

The Endangered Species Act has been focusing on recovering and restoring healthy populations of the bald eagles, grey and red wolves, California Condors, alligators and more since the 1980s.

With more than 200 events aimed at educating people about these endangered species, the government-backed Endangered Species Day is being celebrated along with the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act.

Awareness about these endangered and threatened species may help conserve many more animals.

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