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Endangered Species Act at 50: Almost 60% of Claimed Species ‘Recoveries’ Were Falsely Listed, Western Caucus Foundation Report Shows

  • "The Endangered Species Act at 50" report is the most complete and current analysis of Law’s conservation record and relies on government’s own data

  • Species were routinely listed in error, magically ‘recovered’ to hide the errors as well as wasteful costs imposed on private property owners and taxpayers

WASHINGTON, December 13, 2023--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nearly 60% of species purportedly "recovered" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) should never have been listed in the first place, and were disguised as successes when taken of the federal list, an extensive study of federal ESA data by the Western Caucus Foundation (WCF) finds.

This further calls into question the effectiveness of the law, under which only 3% of approximately 1,700 species have been officially delisted as ‘recovered’ since the Act was signed into Law on Dec. 28, 1973. The WCF analysis puts the number of actual recoveries at less than 2%.

The ESA’s delisting process has been used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to pass off species added to the list in error as successful ‘recoveries.’ In reality, more than double the number of species were actually removed from list because they were mistakes and not actual recoveries, the report, entitled "The Endangered Species Act at 50," says. The report relies almost entirely on federal register notices and agency reports.

"This report documents that the Endangered Species Act in its present form is ineffectual at best, and that its dismal record has been hidden," said Rob Gordon, an ESA expert and the report’s author. "The Act desperately needs modernization for species and people, in terms of how the program is implemented, and to ensure that accurate, reliable and sufficient data are used in decision-making rather than advocacy presented as science, which harms Congressional oversight, misleads the public, and hinders the Act’s very purpose."

The deceptive practice of misrepresenting mistakes as successes has gone on for decades, hiding the waste of conservation resources, and imposing regulatory burdens based on erroneous data.

"For far too long, this administration’s desire to empower D.C. bureaucrats at the expense of local wildlife experts has allowed the ESA to be the death knell of local communities bound by its outdated policies," said Senator Cynthia Lummis (WY), who is WCF Honorary Co-Chair. "Now more than ever, we have a responsibility to modernize the ESA so it not only better fits its intended purpose but empowers our landowners and businesses to be partners in species recovery, not the enemy."

The ESA’s effects are consequential to landowners and taxpayers, who bear the burden of species listed based on insufficient or erroneous data or analysis – species that are later misleadingly claimed to have ‘recovered’ as well as other species that remain wrongly listed. Two-thirds of endangered species habitats are on private lands.

"This year marks the 50th anniversary of the ESA, and it has been a disappointing 50 years," said Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Honorary Co-Chair of WCF and Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus. "With a less than 5% success rate, it’s clear that the ESA as enacted has failed its mission of actually recovering species. Furthermore, the finding that more than half of the alleged recoveries are the result of data error or manipulation is a damning indictment of the effectiveness of this law and its implementation. This report shows we must improve transparency of the data used by the Fish and Wildlife Service, and will help inform the work of the ESA Working Group that I co-chair in the House of Representatives."

Attempts to modernize the ESA have met with stiff resistance in the past.

"It’s to be expected that certain interests will characterize this report as a threat to endangered species or an attempt to roll back environmental regulations," WCF Executive Director Darrell Henry said. "It’s only in the environmental arena that any effort to bring a program into the future – or even the present – and make it effective is referred to as a rollback. Updating the ESA for the better would only turn its long-term failures into successes for truly endangered or threatened species."

The full report is available here.

About the Western Caucus Foundation

The Western Caucus Foundation (WCF) is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization committed to educating public policy makers and communicating with the public to enhance, sustain, and preserve the principles and culture of the West and rural America. The Foundation provides support, education, and outreach opportunities to highlight federal public policies important to the Congressional (House) and Senate Western Caucuses and rural America.

View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20231213993041/en/

Contacts

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Bryson Hull for the Western Caucus Foundation, 202-657-2855

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