What is the Endangered Species Act?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
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  • Last Modified Date: 05 April 2020
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The Endangered Species Act is an act passed by governments to protect animal and a plant species that are in danger of becoming extinct. They are protected through various regulations which limit hunting of the species, destroying or altering its habitat, or trading or transporting the species to other locations. Other local laws also help to protect animals in combination with the Endangered Species Act by enforcing punishment on those who do anything to threaten the survival of a species.

There are two main categories of animals and plants protected by the Endangered Species Act. The first classification of species is “threatened.” This is a species that is at risk but not on the threshold of extinction. The next step, "endangered" species, have very few left in the wild within their natural habitat and are at an immediate risk of extinction if no action is taken. Other factors include the rate at which habitat is being destroyed, how quickly the species can reproduce once the act has taken effect, and the exact number of the plant or animal left in the wild.


Aside from the laws passed by the Endangered Species Act, other measures may also be taken to help prevent extinction. This primarily includes studies of the animal or plant and sometimes having several of them taken into captivity. While being handled by scientists and other experts, mating is usually attempted to raise the number of a particular species. Many times this is done with those that have little chance of reproducing fast enough to replenish the species in the wild. One example is the giant panda, which only mates on average once every two years and raises only one cub at a time.

Species are placed under the Endangered Species Act by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). They issue a proposal to add a species to either classification and the public is given time to provide opinions on whether the plant or animal should be accepted and protected under the law. After a certain period of time, the FWS will vote on whether to accept the proposal or dismiss it. This same process is taken when a species is taken off the endangered or threatened species list or when it is being reclassified into another category.

The Endangered Species Act has helped to preserve the habitats of many plants and animals and has enforced strict regulations against hunting. This has led to many animals being taken off the list over the years. The American bald eagle is one example. Once on the brink of extinction, this bird is now off the endangered species list as populations in the wild continue to increase.



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