At Age 50, Endangered Species Act Could Itself Become Extinct

Aug 22, 2023

Endangered Species in the US in 2023

Fifty years ago, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act. It swept through easily. Every member of the Senate voted for it. In the House, it won 390-12. President Richard Nixon, a Republican, quickly signed it into law.      

The act is credited with saving many animals from going extinct. The American bald eagle is one of them.      

But today, the act itself might go extinct. The Associated Press (AP) reported this. The law has not been updated since 1992. Conservation activists and scientists worry that efforts to weaken it are working.  

Republican presidents and conservative members of Congress have cut down its strength. They argue that the act has cut into landowner rights. They also say it's hurt economic growth. They say the act was meant to save alligators and panthers, not the thousands of less well-known other animals that have been added as endangered.   

The act is “well-intentioned but entirely outdated,” Representative Bruce Westerman told the AP. He's an Arkansas Republican. He leads the House Committee on Natural Resources. He said a group of GOP lawmakers would soon suggest big changes to the act.    

Environmentalists worry that could be the act’s death blow. They say it’s already been starved with a lack of funding. Without money, it can't meet its goals to save species that are close to extinction. “Its biggest challenge is, it’s starving,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark. She's president of the group Defenders of Wildlife.

Reflect: Why might it be tricky to decide on rules for protecting endangered animals? What could happen if we don't update these rules over time?

Based on the information in the infographic, which category has more endangered species than insects, but less endangered species than fishes in the US in 2023? (Common Core RI.5.7; RI.6.7)
a. plants
b. birds
c. reptiles
d. mammals
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