New Report Shows the Endangered Species Act Works for Birds

By Gustave Axelson
January 11, 2017
Image credits, clockwise from top right: Ian Davies/Macaulay Library, P.W. Sykes/National Digital Library of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Moe Bertrand/Macaulay Library, Dena Turner/Macaulay Library, Jean Kohut, Martjan Lammertink. Pie chart: Endangered Species Act: A Record of Success by American Bird Conservancy.
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From the Winter 2017 issue of Living Bird magazine. Subscribe now.

The Endangered Species Act is often criticized. Some conservationists say it’s been weakened and watered down, while other critics say it’s a needless economic drag that benefits lawyers more than animals. In an issues primer for last November’s election, the American Farm Bureau Federation claimed: “the ESA has failed at recovering and delist­ing species since its inception.”

That’s just not true for birds, says a report by the American Bird Conservancy. ABC analyzed population trends since listing for all 96 bird species protected by the Endangered Species Act and found that more than 70 percent were increasing, stable, or have been delisted due to recovery.

“The Endangered Species Act is needed more than ever. In the past five years, sev­en U.S. bird populations were listed as threatened and endangered species,” said Steve Holmer, vice president of policy for the American Bird Conservancy. “On the bright side, our recent analysis shows that once listed, most birds are recovering, thanks in part to the ESA’s safety nets.”

Why does the Endangered Species Act protect subspecies?

Genetically distinct populations within a single species are important reservoirs of evolutionary diversity. Quite often, upon closer examination by scientists, some of these so-called subspecies are recognized as entirely unique species of their own, such as with Bicknell’s Thrush and Bell’s Sparrow.

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