Endangered Species Act

Championing the ESA

Defenders is the leading national conservation voice for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the protection and enhancement of a strong ESA is Defenders’ highest organizational priority.  We champion efforts to ensure that the ESA is allowed to accomplish what it was intended to do: to prevent the extinction of listed species and to promote their stabilization and recovery.   We work to accomplish those goals by pursuing four different strategies:  developing and promoting innovative ideas  to make the act work more effectively and efficiently; working aggressively to ensure that critical federal funding for the ESA is not only maintained but enhanced; vigorously defending the ESA from all legislative attacks that threaten to undermine and weaken the law; and holding the administration accountable when it fails to comply with the act’s statutory requirements and protective regulations. 

Our Conservation Law department works with other conservation organizations, wildlife scientists and experts, and federal agencies to make sure that endangered species receive the full protection they deserve and to which they are entitled. When a federal agency proposes an action that is likely to jeopardize an endangered species or damage its critical habitat, our legal team will go to court to stop it. If the administration inappropriately fails to list a species that is imperiled, we will challenge it.  Over the past 30 years, Defenders has filed numerous lawsuits to protect a wide variety of endangered species, from our ongoing role defending wolves, to advocating for increased protections for polar bears and sea turtles. 

In Congress, Defenders educates legislators and their staff about the values at stake in protecting endangered species, helping them understand how important it is to provide adequate funding for endangered species programs and to keep the ESA strong. We also relentlessly oppose all legislative efforts to weaken the law. In 2012, we published a report for legislators, the media and the public that highlighted more than a dozen proposed amendments and bills that would have overridden or waived key provisions of the Endangered Species Act designed to prevent jeopardy to the entire species or the take of individual animals. As a result of the hard work of Defenders and our conservation partners, none of these provisions became law.   

Despite these past successes, new legislative threats are introduced each year that put the Endangered Species Act at risk, requiring constant vigilance on the part of Defenders and our members and supporters. So in addition to the rest of our work, we also help organize and maximize the impact of the voices of individual citizens who want to speak up for endangered wildlife in their communities and on Capitol Hill. To help citizens inform policymakers of their strong support for the nation’s commitment to saving imperiled wildlife, Defenders has also launched a new citizen advocacy campaign, Conservation Crossroads: Extinction or Recovery? 

More on Endangered Species Act : Improving the ESA »

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