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The Endangered Endangered Species Act

August 22, 2007

The Bald Eagle was taken off the Endangered Species list last week, a great milestone considering how that species suffered 30 years ago from the effects of the insecticide DDT. The population was as low as 400 pairs in 1963, and now holds strong at nearly 10,000 pairs, still not a lot but a success story all the same.

Well, many species are about to join it, and not because they have experienced similar success, but because the Department of the Interior changed the rules of the game. The Endangered Species Reform Act of 2007, broken down here, has hit the books! The original act, beautiful in its simplicity, states:

An endangered species is any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

The update completely changes the way species can be listed basically by changing the definitions of the words “endangered species”, “significant”, “portion” and “range”. Under the new act, and animal or plant can no longer be listed as “endangered” if it “thrives” in any portion of its range. The DOI is to decide what “thriving” entails but it apparently doesn’t mean much, and thriving in one state doesn’t necessarily mean a species is thriving in another, nevermind that nature doesn’t observe state and country boundaries anyway.

With the new definition, the Center for Biological Diversity estimates that 80% of federally endangered species currently listed will be removed, along with the protection provided by being listed. Obviously this is bad news for North American wildlife, but truly par for the course these days. Perhaps a new president will do what he/she can to reverse this ruling, but that’s unlikely. The politics of endangered species tend to fall by the wayside in the face of the “War on Terror” and the like.


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