Endangered species act essay


Ethical Convergence and the Endangered Species Act

Everybody loses. This conceptual dilemma applies generally to any resource-based system in which individuals acting selfishly can destroy the common good for everyone, by depleting or ruining the shared resource on which the whole community depends. While his primary attention centered on managing human population growth, his prescient essay also alluded to resource-management examples that remain even more relevant today. Open-ocean fisheries are being depleted at an accelerating pace.

Endangered Species Act Essay Examples

Underfunded national parks are compromised by unruly crowds and anthropogenic noise. Ecosystems are being degraded by pollution and exploitation, at both individual and industrial scales. The ESA is at once both elegant and ambitious, committing the federal government to doing everything within its authority to prevent any species within U. All key sections of the act are grounded in science. Viewed under this light, the ESA represents an essential commitment by our federal government to safeguard—and as necessary, invest in, the commons.

The ESA came under attack almost immediately, especially as the economic implications of protecting biological systems from rampant development became clear. Practical amendments passed in , , and provided latitude for exceptions and permitting based on habitat conservation planning. Courts have repeatedly upheld the ESA as constitutional, and have affirmed the biologically grounded principle that habitat destruction can constitute illegal harm to an endangered species.

Until recently, complaints and legal battles surrounding endangered species management have centered on contentions that the ESA constrains business and infrastructure development, adds unbearable costs for real estate developers and farmers, shrinks venerable industries such as old-growth timber-harvesting, and violates personal freedoms.

In this context, no price is too high.

Perverse Incentives and the Endangered Species Act

Regulations that constrain free-enterprise behavior in order to prevent species extinctions are essential for battling the otherwise inevitable—here it comes again—tragedy of the commons. Now a new, controversial twist has emerged in the endangered species debate, and ironically its proponents, including many ecologists, are pro-conservation and staunchly in favor of a strong ESA. At issue is how federal agencies are deciding to direct their limited resources toward recovering endangered species.

They propose that resource allocations would result in more successes if they followed objectively derived algorithms incorporating variables such as projected cost of recovery, likelihood of success, degree of threat, and value of the conservation target. At least three crucial assumptions underlying the algorithm-and-triage approach to endangered species management stand out as especially dubious.

Analysis: Failing To Invest In Endangered Species Is A Tragedy Of The Commons | All About Birds

First, available resources are constrained to remain tiny with respect to the overall need. Second, accurate data are available for all the variables feeding the algorithm. Third, relative values of the full list of endangered species can be assigned by consensus or can be objectively derived. The second and third of these assumptions are demonstrably false. For example, almost all of the recovery plans on which to base these classifications are decades out of date more than 70 percent of ESA recovery plans are more than 20 years old , and their listed recovery budgets are meaningless.

Regarding relative values of the targets, as the ESA declares, every one of the listed species represents an indicator of an ecosystem gone awry. Given our commitment to the commons, on what objective criteria does one ecosystem warrant more investment than another? These were not the only values important to the public at the time, however. In protest of these deleterious effects, the public successfully boycotted the industry. This moral concern even extended to seemingly valueless species.

It has always been my feeling that the great outdoors was populated with a purpose. Congress clearly recognized the growing concern of the American public for endangered species, as the Endangered Species Preservation Act was passed in , [43] followed three years later by the expanded Endangered Species Conservation Act of Still, the most prevalent argument for protecting endangered species was their economic value.

Many politicians referred to endangered species as renewable, wildlife resources and sought to restore them to more productive levels. For example, despite external pressures to reduce the import and export of species, there was a particular emphasis on continuing to support international wildlife trade, where appropriate.

Others in the hearings emphasized that, because species are irreplaceable, the loss of species could irreparably injury humans. Members of these administrations and other legislators also made arguments for the intrinsic value of species. The prevention of this extinction. Organizations like the National Wildlife Federation, the National Audubon Society, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Wildlife Institute all pushed for expansive endangered species legislation, both in Congress and to the public.

In , the NWF released a short publication, in which species were recognized as having both intrinsic and instrumental values. In the broadest sense of appreciation there are new worlds to conquer in sane and sound resource management, to become a challenge to hundreds of young men who aspire to work and seek renown in the conservation field. Be admonished not to become so cold and calculating as to sense no emotional ecstasy in a flight of mallards through the marsh mists in the eerie light of a rising sun, the serenity of a country meadow, the awe-inspiring grandeur of mountains, and the peace of silent places.

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This dichotomy between the recognition of intrinsic rights and the necessity of instrumental argumentation carried over into the debates over endangered species legislation. When the first two endangered species acts were passed in the s, conservation organizations were among the first to call for the application of the law to all species including plants and invertebrates. We condemn no wild creature and work to assure that no living species shall be lost.

Despite their intrinsic value focus, conservationists also made instrumental value arguments. Despite this range of values, the final statute received little to no opposition, thus reflecting a convergence of these values. The goal of the Act was to prioritize conservation of endangered species, even above economic growth and development. Though the explicit values in the Act are anthropocentric ones, including both economic and transformative values, [73] the power and breadth of the Act demonstrate that the intrinsic value of species is implicitly written into the law.

Divergence in the Implementation of the Endangered Species Act. It is no longer a policy that incorporates current anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric values.

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As scientific knowledge has increased and Legislative and Executive branch priorities have shifted, many stakeholders have come to see the Act as a poor fit for their values. Non-anthropocentrists, for their part, feel that strong anthropocentrists in Congress have weakened the Act through subsequent amendments, and that various presidential administrations have inadequately enforced it.


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Even so, given that the science on these issues is by no means settled, many weak anthropocentrists still believe the Act is a sufficient policy for conservation, if implemented effectively. These values have evolved over time and thus no longer converge on the Endangered Species Act as enacted. Almost from the start, Congress though a different one than had passed the Act has sought to undermine the Act. As a result, the Carter administration was forced to make concessions in enforcing the Act, and largely did not carry out ambitious plans for designating and protecting critical habitats.

Now, forty years later, scientific knowledge has grown significantly, and some environmentalists and scientists are pushing for new conservation goals and policy that better reflect current knowledge. Knowledge 10, , at 4. Norton, Toward Unity Among Environmentalists Ethics 87 Ethics , Ethics Minteer, Unity Among Environmentalists?


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