Conservationists Reflect On Four Decades Of Endangered Species Act
December 28, 2013

Conservationists Reflect On Four Decades Of Endangered Species Act

[ Watch the Video: Endangered Species Act Turns 40 ]

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, the landmark piece of legislation designed to protect critically imperiled creatures from extinction in the US due to economic growth and development.

According to National Geographic, the law has helped recover more than 30 species and prevented the extinction of 99 percent of all species it was designed to protect since it was originally signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973.

The first species to be declared fully recovered under the Endangered Species Act was the brown pelican in 2009. Since then, the Act has been credited with saving hundreds of US species from extinction, including the bald eagle, the American alligator, sea otters and pumas.

“There have been many good and bad times that have happened over the years. Many animals on the list have started to thrive, including some that may lose protection because their populations are doing so well,” said Tina Elliott of the Guardian Liberty Voice, adding the act “has saved many species from the brink of extinction, and has protected over 1400 domestic wildlife, fish and plants, as well as 600 foreign species.”

Rachel Santymire, who serves as director of the Lincoln Park Zoo's Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology told Justin Breen of DNAinfo Chicago the act was “one of the best things we've done for our environment.”

Santymire helps monitor the population of the rare black-footed ferret, which according to Elliott were believed to be extinct in 1981, but thanks to the Act have now repopulated eight states.

The anniversary comes at a time when wildlife officials in the northern Rockies are debating whether or not the hundreds of grizzly bears located in and around Yellowstone National Park should continue to be protected, Elizabeth Weise of USA Today reports. The creatures, which were first granted federal protection in 1975, are on the road to recovery. Those in favor of continuing protection argue that lifting their protection would be, in Weise’s words, “short-sighted.”

Jim Robinett, senior vice president of external and regulatory affairs at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, said, “One of the most impactful changes [of the Endangered Species Act] is the partnership between zoos and aquariums and government agencies… These partnerships allow us to share data and techniques learned from the animals in our care to improve rescue and rehabilitation in the wild. These valuable collaborations apply federal efforts on the local level.”

Robinett, who has been working at the aquarium for the bulk of the past 40 years, called it “incredible to see the change in the public’s interest in environmental conservation – from a movement embracing recycling and green living to today’s young generation with increased interest in protecting animals and their environment… I’ve seen how touching the smooth skin of a stingray at an aquarium can lead a young guest to think about what type of sustainable seafood dish to order at dinner. It’s those experiences that have demonstrated the critical role that zoos and aquariums play in conservation.”