Endangered Species Act turns 40 years old — and faces midlife crisis
Four decades after going into effect, the legislation that protects some of Mother Nature’s most vulnerable creatures is facing an existential crisis.
Since the Endangered Species Act became law, it’s generated its share of success stories (such as the bald eagle’s resurgence) and less impressive case studies (such as the continuing decline of the Northern spotted owl). This year’s anniversary is generating a lot of talk about the Endangered Species Act’s past — and its future.
“There are a lot of pundits out there who will tell you that it has either been a disaster or a huge success,” Peter Alagona, a professor of environmental history at the University of California at Santa Barbara, told Smithsonian magazine. “The truth is that it has really been a mixed bag to date, and ‘to date’ is a really short time. For species that took centuries to decline, 40 years is probably not enough time to recover.”
Alagona takes an in-depth look at species protection in a book titled “After the Grizzly,” and says the law has done “a really good job” of preventing extinctions. “But it’s done a really poor job promoting the recovery of species that are on the list,” he said.
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