The Endangered Species Act is often described as the most far-reaching conservation statute on the books -- in the U.S. or anywhere. Central to its implementation is the listing of species as threatened or endangered, which begins a process that is supposed to lead to their recovery. At least that's the goal.

That only a handful of species have been removed from the T&E list on the basis of their recovery is an unfortunate fact perennially used by critics of the ESA to label it a failure. These critics -- usually but not always on the Republican side of the aisle; political opposition to the ESA appears to hinge on whether you have one (or 20) in your district or state -- blame the ESA for all manner of ills and would like to change it to make listing more difficult. (As I write this, the House of Representatives has not long rejected an attempt by House appropriators to prohibit the Fish and Wildlife Service from spending any money on the species listing process.)

The law's supporters, however, argue that it has helped prevent countless extinctions by drawing attention to -- and generating funding for -- imperiled species.  They also point to a handful of high-profile success stories, such as the bald eagle and the brown pelican, and counter that biological success or failure cannot be measured in decades, especially given the minuscule amount directly spent on species recovery compared to other programs.

Conservation groups are constantly fighting to get species onto the list. Witness this litigation, which has resulted in a settlement that would require the Fish and Wildlife Service to make final decisions on hundreds of species. The agreement is awaiting the approval of U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan. [Update: He approved it, and it survived a subsequent challenge.]

The text above will be altered as time goes on. In the meantime, here are some links with more information on threatened and endangered species, and species considered candidates for listing under the ESA.

U.S. species listed by FWS (from this page)

Vertebrate Animals Invertebrate Animals Non-flowering Plants Flowering Plants

You also can access the latest publication of listed animals and listed plants as published in the Government Printing Office's Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants 50 eCFR 17.11 and 17.12, which is updated daily.

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