Endangered Species Act

Improving the ESA

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), one of the most important federal environmental laws, is implemented through a number of rules, policies and protocols. Like all laws, the ESA is only as effective as the way it is implemented. And while the Act has been extremely successful in preventing the extinction of many species over the years, we can always find new ways to make it work even better, and put more species on the road to recovery.  Our team of scientists, lawyers, policy experts and lobbyists focus on improving ESA policies, regulations, and guidance, so that they result in real-world benefits to imperiled species.  We also look for ways to make ESA policies more efficient, helping limited conservation dollars go farther, and making it easier for the public to comply with ESA regulations.  

Of all the plants and animal species with known status listed under the ESA, about 40 percent are stable or improving and are already on the road toward recovery.  For those species, we work to make sure that progress continues or speeds up.  But we believe many more species could be on their way to recovery if smarter investments are made, and more incentives offered to encourage others to get involved in the process.  For these species that haven’t yet made real progress, Defenders helps develop new, more effective approaches to move them closer to recovery.  This means creating a careful strategy that puts to use every tool available under the Endangered Species Act, including recovery planning, habitat conservation and management, candidate species conservation, listings, consultations with federal agencies, population reintroductions, and coordinating with state wildlife agencies, just to name a few.  Some of our current work focuses on: 

  • Prioritizing how federal wildlife agencies use and allocate their recovery funding, so that they  maximize the amount of wildlife diversity conserved under the ESA
  • Providing incentives to private landowners, state agencies, and federal agencies to conserve species that are candidates for listing and suggesting improvements for the development and implementation of proactive conservation tools like candidate conservation agreements
  • Encouraging federal land management agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of Defense, to invest more time and money into endangered species recovery
  • Advocating for ways that state wildlife agencies can better care for at-risk wildlife so that they don’t decline to the point where they need federal protection, and so they recover more quickly if they are listed 

We work closely with federal and state agencies, other conservation organizations, landowners and businesses on these and other aspects of our work.  All of these partners are essential to achieving Defenders’ goals for endangered species, and ultimately our long-term vision of North American wildlife populations diverse, secure, thriving, and sustained by a network of healthy lands and waters. 

More on Endangered Species Act : Meet Our Team »

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