Endangered Species Day recognizes our nation's efforts to protect critically rare species and their habitats. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Federation and others are observing the day. As America's first wildlife conservation and hunting organization, Boone and Crockett also enthusiastically holds up the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as a significant piece of conservation legislation.
The ESA was signed by President Nixon in 1973. The plain intent of the law was to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost.
Achievements include the bald eagle, gray wolf, whooping crane, black-footed ferret and several other species whose populations benefited under the additional protections afforded by the ESA.
"We join in America's applause of those hard-fought successes," said Morrie Stevens, Boone and Crockett Club president.
Stevens added, "It's also well to point out that the whitetail deer, elk, wild turkey, wood duck, bison, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and many other species also were once on the brink of extinction-but fully recovered thanks to voluntary conservation efforts and funding from hunters, long before there was an ESA."
But if delisting is the hallmark of conservation success, then permanent listings are the hallmark of conservation failure.
The ESA hasn't been updated since the Reagan Administration and there are new conservation challenges and solutions that have developed since then. The Fish and Wildlife Service currently lists as threatened or endangered more than 1,500 U.S. animal and plant species. Will we see delisting successes for all these species? Why and why not is being debated. Are ESA failures a function of: normal evolution; permanent loss of habitat and unrealistic expectations because of this loss; disagreements over procedures and definitions; man's neglect or, worse, exploitation; frivolous litigation by environmental groups who profit by keeping species listed?
Stevens said, "Whatever the reasons, when a species remains as a permanent ward of the federal government, it means the ESA is not working as intended. Recent suggestions to break the gridlock and improve ESA effectiveness need to be implemented."
The Boone and Crockett Club will continue to advocate for ESA listings, recoveries, de-listings and future management based on science. The Club also will continue to push for smoother procedures and refined processes needed to keep the ESA strong, relevant and successful in the future.