Endangered Species Act 50th Anniversary Highlights Successes, Continued Challenges to Wildlife

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Endangered Species Day and the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act are an opportunity to celebrate the incredible successes of this landmark law while highlighting the gravity of the wildlife crisis and the critical need for action. The Endangered Species Act, passed by Congress in 1973, has led to the recovery of iconic species such as the bald eagle, American alligator, the whooping crane and many others. However, America’s wildlife is in crisis due to the changing climate, habitat fragmentation, invasive species, disease, and other factors.

“The Endangered Species Act plays a crucial role in saving our nation's most at-risk wildlife from extinction,” said John Kanter, senior biologist for the National Wildlife Federation. “For the last 50 years, this law has made it possible to restore a variety of species. We must continue to build on the law’s legacy by committing to proactive recovery of species through legislation such as the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act and a conservation focused Farm Bill, along with additional investment in climate, habitat recovery, and wildlife disease mitigation."

Congress passed the Endangered Species Act and President Richard Nixon signed it into law at a moment of steep decline for many of our country’s most iconic species. Under the law, the federal government has a responsibility to protect endangered species (species that are likely to become extinct throughout all or a large part of their range), threatened species (species that likely to be in danger of extinction in the near future), and critical habitat (areas vital to the survival of threatened or endangered species).

One of the law’s most incredible success stories is the recovery of the bald eagle. In the 1960s, only 500 bald eagles could be found flying in the lower 48 states. Through the Endangered Species Act’s protections, bald eagle numbers have rebounded to more than 14,000 bald eagle breeding pairs today. The success of the Endangered Species Act also extends to other species, such as the Florida panther, gray wolf, grizzly bear, peregrine falcon, and red-cockaded woodpecker, among other species.


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