Endangered Species Act Reauthorization
The SICB Conservation Committee (Fraser Shilling, chair) worked with eight societies to
create a statement on science-based reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act. The
statement grew out of the Conservation Resolution passed by SICB (then ASZ) in 1995. The
statement was printed as an advertisement in the New York Times and has been
distributed to members of Congress and to the Executive Branch. Below is a shortened
version of this statement for your reference.
Science-Based Reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act
We, the undersigned presidents of scientific societies, present to the Executive and
Legislative branches of the federal government the following recommendations for
reauthorizing the Endangered Species Act (1973) and development of guidelines for its use
based on biological science. The collective membership of our societies is more than
30,000 scientists. Our expertise is in marine, terrestrial, and aquatic ecosystems,
studying a wide variety of plant and animal species. The Endangered Species Act will be
effective only if the strategies for habitat conservation, recovery planning, and
protection from harm for listed species are based on sound scientific information. The
majority of the American public has indicated a desire for conservation of threatened and
endangered species and their habitats through a strong Endangered Species Act. It is our
professional opinion that this goal can best be accomplished if the reauthorization
incorporates the following principles and recommendations.
- The rate of human-caused extinction caused by human activities is from 100 to 1000 times
as high as the natural rate. The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to contain human
actions that could threaten extinction of a species and to proactively plan for recovery
of the listed and candidate species.
- The federal government should declare and describe the critical habitat for threatened
and endangered species at the time of listing, based upon sufficient scientific
information. Critical habitat is defined as the specific areas within and outside the
geographical area presently occupied by the listed species containing features essential
to the conservation of the species. Critical habitat designation and revisions of same
should be made.
- Recovery is a priority of the Endangered Species Act. To accomplish this, the federal
government should designate recovery area(s) greater than that needed for a minimum viable
population. Recovery plans should be independently peer-reviewed and the planning should
take place before experi-mental efforts, such as "Habitat Conservation Plans."
- Reasonable implemented recovery plans will provide for: a) an area sufficient to absorb
100 percent of the recovered population(s) and b) population goals based upon best
available scientific information. Implementation of plans should take place within 90 days
of listing. Successful recovery takes place across the available landscape previously
occupied by the species. Where private lands are needed, the federal government should
either make arrangements for a market value purchase of the lands required, or arrange
with willing landowners for easements with no incompatible human activity.
- In order to achieve uniformity in successful endangered species conservation, the
federal government should cooperate with local governing bodies to ensure that no action
preempts the containment strategies central to the Act. New and existing Habitat
Conservation Plans developed at the state, regional, county and municipal level should
follow the guidelines of the Act as described here. Habitat Conservation Plans should
undergo an environmental impact analysis with attention paid to cumulative impacts.
- To limit risks of extinction, no private or public agency action should negatively
modify habitat occupied by threatened, endangered, or candidate species or habitat within
the recovery area designated by a recovery plan. No private or public agency action should
threaten recovery or result in jeopardy, harassment, or harm to a listed or candidate
- The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
(1973) needs support by the federal government through measures such as restriction on
trade with any country repeatedly found to allow the trade of threatened or endangered
species through insufficient regulation in a manner found to counteract recovery efforts.
- No listed or candidate species, or parts thereof, should be imported to, or exported
from, the United States of America or its protectorates or traded between states. These
provisions should only be preempted for traditional use by Native people of listed species
and for scientific and restoration activities where only a minor segment (<10%) of the population(s) is affected.
- Harming of
listed species through the "incidental take" permitting process should be
prohibited because it is considered to be inconsistent with the recovery of listed
species. Because of the risks posed by take, this provision should be removed in order to
decrease the risk that its use poses to listed species. Habitat Conservation Plans can be
developed in the absence of incidental take and be used to do as their name suggests, plan
for the conservation of ample available habitat for listed species.
- There should be no economic considerations or "cost-benefit analyses"
associated with listing decisions, critical habitat designation, jeopardy determinations,
or recovery plan development and implementation. These decisions are best made when based
only on the best scientific information.
Alan Kohn, President and Michael Hadfield, Past President, Society for Integrative and
James MacMahon, President, Ecological Society of America Nancy Dengler, President,
Botanical Society of America
Alicia Linzey, President, American Society of Mammalogists Doug Dahlman, President,
Entomological Society of America
Richard Grosberg, President and Mark Denny, Past President, Western Society of
Alan Savitzky, President and Ted Pietsch, Past President, American Society of
Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
Robert Hershler, President, American Malacological Union
Tom Malone, President, American Society of Limnology and Oceanography