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Sustainable Society:  A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.







The Effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act:

A Quantitative Analysis*

Martin F. J. Taylor, Kieran F. Suckling
and Jeffrey J. Rachlinski
April 2005


Press Release: Endangered Species Act provisions
appear to benefit imperiled organisms

Center For Biological Diversity
April 1, 2005

An analysis of the conservation status of 1095 species that have been protected under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) indicates that those that have been given more protection under the act are more likely to be improving in status and less likely to be declining than species given less protection. The study, "The Effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act: A Quantitative Analysis," by Martin F. J. Taylor, Kieran F. Suckling, and Jeffrey J. Rachlinski, affirms the effectiveness of some controversial aspects of the act for conservation. The results could inform various efforts now under way in Congress to amend the act.

The study finds that the longer species were listed under the act, the more likely they were to be improving in status and the less likely to be declining, suggesting ESA conservation measures act cumulatively over time. Separately, species for which "critical habitat" had been designated for two or more years appeared more likely to be improving and less likely to be declining than species that did not have critical habitat for at least two years. Likewise, species that had recovery plans for two or more years appeared more likely to be improving and less likely to be declining than others, and species with dedicated recovery plans appeared to fare better than species protected by multi-species recovery plans. Other protections afforded by the ESA, such as protection of individual animals from unregulated "take," also had apparently beneficial effects on species' conservation status. The benefits of ESA protections did not appear to favor animals over plants. Taylor and his coauthors urge that the $153 million estimated cost to complete work on the backlog of ESA listings and critical habitat designations be fully funded, and endorse a recommendation that the recovery program budget be increased by $300 million.

The study is described in detail in the April 2005 issue of BioScience, the monthly journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. Journalists may obtain copies of the article by contacting Donna Royston, AIBS communications representative.

BioScience publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles covering a wide range of biological fields. The journal has been published since 1964. AIBS is an umbrella organization for professional scientific societies and organizations that are involved with biology. It represents 89 member societies and organizations with a combined membership of about 240,000.

Donna Royston, Communications Representative.
+1.202.628.1500 ext. 261, <droyston@aibs.org>

Courtesy of the Center For Biological Diversity
Michael Finkelstein, Executive Director
Robin Silver, Conservation Chair
P.O. Box 710
Tucson AZ 85702-0710
See original at < http://www.sw-center.org/swcbd/Programs/policy/ch/biosci-pr.html >.


The Effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act: A Quantitative Analysis

Martin F. J. Taylor[1], Kieran F. Suckling[2]
and Jeffrey J. Rachlinski[3]
April 2005

Population trends for 1095 species listed as threatened and endangered under the Endangered Species Act were correlated with the length of time the species were listed and the presence or absence of critical habitat and recovery plans. Species with critical habitat for two or more years were more than twice as likely to have an improving population trend in the late 1990s, and less than half as likely to be declining in the early 1990s, as species without. Species with dedicated recovery plans for two or more years were significantly more likely to be improving and less likely to be declining than species without. The proportion of species improving increased, and the proportion declining decreased, with increasing time listed throughout the 1990s, irrespective of critical habitat and recovery plans. On the basis of these results, we recommend increased funding for earlier listing of imperiled species and prompt provision of critical habitat and recovery plans.

[1] Martin Taylor (mtaylor@npaq.org.au), executive coordinator of the National Parks Association of Queensland, Australia.
[2] Kieran Suckling (ksuckling@biologicaldiversity.org, (520) 623-5252 x305), policy and biodiversity program director, Center for Biological Diversity, Tucson, Arizona.
[3] Jeffrey Rachlinski (jeffrey-rachlinski@postoffice.law.cornell.edu), Professor of Law, Cornell Law School, Ithaca, NY 14853-4901.

For more information, contact Kieran Suckling <ksuckling@biologicaldiversity.org>.

Originally published in BioScience 55(4):360-367.
See original at < http://www.sw-center.org/swcbd/Programs/policy/ch/sub1.html >.
See original study at < http://www.sw-center.org/swcbd/Programs/policy/ch/bioscience2005.pdf >.


Editorial:  A Database for the ESA

J. Michael Scott and Dale D. Goble
April 2005

The Forum article that begins on page 360, "The Effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act: A Quantitative Analysis," by Martin Taylor and colleagues, is particularly timely, given the number of bills before Congress to amend the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The article is an example of an encouraging trend in discussions of the ESA. Taylor and his colleagues provide an empirical analysis of several key elements of the act, including one of its more controversial provisions, the designation of critical habitat. The ESA defines the term critical habitat as the area where the "physical or biological features…essential to the conservation of the species" are located.

The act does not designate any habitat, leaving that task to the federal wildlife agency. The designation is to be based on the best scientific data available, together with an analysis of the economic impact of the designation. Although individuals on all sides of the issue have been willing to offer up judgments on the value of critical habitat, they have often done so without supporting empirical data. Anecdote, rhetoric, and even logic are poor substitutes for data. Lack of informed discussion neither builds trust nor casts light on the issue at hand.

Taylor and colleagues shed some light; although their study establishes a correlation rather than causation, it does suggest that critical habitat makes a positive difference in the conservation status of at-risk species.

This article also highlights a related concern. Empirical analysis is dependent upon data. Taylor and colleagues were able to address the importance of critical habitat only after amassing a comprehensive database drawn from diverse sources. Other researchers who have sought to evaluate the act’s accomplishments have also faced this challenge. The difficulty is that no single ESA database contains the full record of agency actions regarding listing, reclassification, consultations, and other decisions pursuant to the act. Although the Web sites maintained by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are useful, they could be even more so if they were fully consistent with the record from the Federal Register as well as with one another.

A comprehensive database that contained a complete record of actions under the ESA would promote independent analysis by diverse parties and would improve discourse by complementing rhetoric with facts. The result would be better-informed policymakers, agency personnel, and members of the general public, as well as a more transparent and efficient ESA implementation process.

J. Michael Scott
Research Biologist, US Geological Survey
Department of Fish and Wildlife
University of Idaho
Moscow, ID 83844

Dale D. Goble
College of Law
University of Idaho
Moscow, ID 83844

See original at < http://www.sw-center.org/swcbd/Programs/policy/ch/biosci-editorial.html >.
* Note:
H.R. 3824 Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act, Rep. Richard Pombo, passed the House the last week of September 2005.
The bill removes the requirement for "critical habitat" for endangered species and provides that the government pay developers and polluters not to kill publicly owned fish and wildlife.
See "Roll Call 506" votes at < http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2005/roll506.xml >. A "no" vote is in support of the ESA.


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