Endangered Species FAQ

The Endangered Species Act is our nation’s safety net for fish, plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction. It has been both hailed and maligned, but it serves a unique and important purpose—to help conserve our precious wildlife resources. Without it, the lower 48 states wouldn’t have bald eagles, grizzlies, bull trout, wolves, and other keystone species. Here are some questions commonly asked about the ESA as it relates to wolves.

Q: Does the Endangered Species Act prevent me from defending my herd if I see a wolf attacking my livestock?

A: Special provisions of the Endangered Species Act allow livestock owners in most of Idaho and Wyoming (within the experimental areas outside national parks) to shoot a wolf in the act of attacking livestock or a herding dog. However, outside of the experimental areas, livestock owners must contact state or federal wolf managers to remove or kill wolves involved in livestock depredations. Livestock owners should contact state and federal wildlife agencies for advice on how to proceed for their location. Of course, livestock owners are encouraged to learn about ways to reduce the chance of a wolf-livestock conflict in the first place. There are many successful techniques available to producers, as well as financial and technical assistance. Find out more about non-lethal wolf control and compensation programs.

Q: Does the Endangered Species Act give the federal government the power to take away people’s private property?

A: No. Except in one unusual case involving water rights, no federal court has ever found that the Endangered Species Act has led to an unconstitutional land grab. The Endangered Species Act provides for a careful balance of private property rights, the public's right to a healthy environment, and protection of public wildlife resources.

Q: Does the Endangered Species Act bring construction and development to a halt?

A: No. Of more than 219,000 development projects reviewed under the Endangered Species Act between 1998 and 2001, less than one percent were found to potentially jeopardize listed species—and most of these were allowed to continue after including reasonable alternatives to minimize environmental harm.

Q: Is the process of listing species under the Endangered Species Act based on science?

A: Yes. The Endangered Species Act requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to use the most rigorous science available in deciding whether to provide Endangered Species Act protections. According to a 2003 GAO Report to Congress, the USFWS policies and practices have ensured that listing decisions are based on the best available science and have the support of peer reviewers and other scientific experts.

Q: Isn’t protecting endangered species an expensive luxury we can't afford?

A: No. In 2005, Congress gave the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a mere $143 million to implement the Endangered Species Act—the same price as approximately 18 miles of a four-lane federal highway. This represents an average cost of merely 48 cents per American per year. Extinction is something we can't afford. Diverse plants, wildlife and fish provide us with priceless benefits—from supplying lifesaving drugs to maintaining natural ecosystems and recreational lands.

Q: Has the Endangered Species Act been successful in protecting species from extinction?

A: Yes. The Endangered Species Act has been nearly 100 percent successful in saving species from extinction. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 99 percent of the species ever listed under the Endangered Species Act remain on the planet today. A study published in the Annual Review of Ecological Systematics identified 172 species that may have become extinct during the period from 1973 to 1998 if Endangered Species Act protections had not been implemented. Of the more than 1,200 species protected under the Act, only nine have ever been declared extinct.

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