In a recent study, biologists at the Columbia Climate School have determined why the Endangered Species Act fails to protect endangered species throughout America. The Endangered Species Act (ESA), passed in 1973, provides programs and guidelines for protecting and rehabilitating endangered plants and animals throughout the country.
On October 12th, the Columbia Climate School posted a study (led by Environmental biologist Erich Eberhard) that broke down why the ESA has been unsuccessful. However, in the 39 years since the act was passed, it has failed to recover a single endangered species to the point where it no longer needs protection. While eleven species have been delisted from endangerment status, biologists claim none of them are due to the ESA, and rather due to natural recovery or due to displacement on the list, as they were never endangered. According to Competitive Enterprise Institute Research Associate Brian Seasholes, “The ESA has failed to recover a single species, not one.”
The Columbia Climate School’s recent study claims that the ESA fails because it does not provide protection until a species population is precariously small, limiting any chance of recovery. Eberhard writes, “small population sizes at time of listing, coupled with delayed protection and insufficient funding, continue to undermine one of the world’s strongest laws for protecting biodiversity.” Since small populations are drastically more vulnerable to environmental, genetic, and human threats, by the time the ESA gets involved, the species in question is already doomed.
Moreover, the ESA has had issues with the declining water quality nationwide. Clean water is very important to endangered species, as water allows for life to exist through its various properties. Internally, the cohesion and adhesion of water helps transport water molecules around the body, and helps support bodily functions that depend on water. Externally, water helps moderate the climate of nearby environments. For example, water’s high specific heat allows it to absorb heat generated by the sun, cooling the temperature in costal regions. Thus, water regulates the temperate and environment that organisms in costal reasons have adapted to. When the external temperate dips below freezing level, bodies of water do not freeze throughout, as ice floats on top of water. The hydrogen bonds of water stop moving when frozen, and due to the spaces in between them, ice is less dense than liquid water with rapidly moving water particles, in which hydrogen bonds form and break easily.
The lack of clean water prevents these properties to happen, which worsens the habitat of already endangered species, pushing them further to extinction. The Environmental Protection Agency has increased efforts to control water by partnering the efforts of the ESA and The Clean Water Act (CWA), they have once again had limited success.
The authors hope that “leaders in the U.S. and across the world will learn from these lessons to better protect and conserve imperiled species across the globe.” The ESA has undoubtedly failed to protect endangered species in America.