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Reason Foundation

The Endangered Species Act at 40: Species Profiles

The ESA's record of success has been badly exaggerated, and the Act has been detrimental to the conservation of species it was designed to protect

Brian Seasholes
December 31, 2013

Since its passage in 1973, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has become one of America’s most powerful and controversial environmental laws. With 2014 being the 40th anniversary year of the Act's passage, there has been a surge of interest in the Act. Unfortunately, most analyses and reports repeat myths and misconceptions regarding the impact and value of the Act. For 20 years, Brian Seasholes has been investigating the ESA and other ways of conserving endangered species. In a series of analyses for Reason, he seeks to address the real impact of the Act and to propose practical reforms. Seasholes analyses address two primary issues:

Brian Seasholes has undertaken profiles of eleven of the species claimed as recovered in an effort to provide something new and different: highly detailed examinations of the conservation of these species, including citations with which information can be independently verified. Links to the profiles are below:

Aleuthian Canada Goose (.pdf) — Summary (.pdf)
American Alligator (.pdf) — Summary (.pdf)
American Peregrine Falcon (.pdf) — Summary (.pdf)
Arctic Peregrine Falcon (.pdf) — Summary (.pdf)
Bald Eagle (.pdf) — Summary (.pdf)
Hawaiian Hawk (.pdf) — Summary (.pdf)
Hoover's Woolly-Star (.pdf) — Summary (.pdf)
Palau Fantail Flycatcher, Palau Owl, Palau Ground Dove (.pdf) — Summary (.pdf)
Tinian Monarch (.pdf) — Summary (.pdf)

If there is to be an intelligent debate about the Endangered Species Act, it is essential that it be based on facts and not mere assertions. These species profiles are an attempt to contribute to just such an enlightened and fact-based debate. The profiles reveal that for most of these species recovery owes little to the ESA. Worse, the ESA appears to have been detrimental to the conservation of many of the species.

Full references for all species profiles are available here: References (.pdf)


Brian Seasholes is Director, Endangered Species Project


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