America / Environmental Regulation / Regulation

Endangered species finally get much needed attention

Social, economic and political problems plague policy makers and focus attention on an array of both domestic and foreign issues. Congress is notably polarized and it seems that the more important an issue may be, the more difficult compromise is. Top environmental issues tend to revolve around energy production, renewable energy technology, food production, water supply, and land and waste management. Throughout all this we have lost sight of an incredibly vital component to the ecology of this nation—wildlife. The US is home to 2,972 animal vertebrate animal species, many of which are threatened by human activity.

However, with pressure from activists and some support from the government, the Fish and Wildlife Service is finally making decisions about endangered species and who makes the cut. There are species that have been on the waiting list for endangered status over a decade, and in the case of the Oregon Spotted Frog, 22 years. These decisions need to be made. Once a species is regarded as endangered, it receives more attention and has a much better chance of recovering.

The service has taken this mission very seriously and has done preliminary work on over 550 species candidates for the endangered species list. In addition the service has promised to eliminate the backlog by 2018, basically cleaning up past indecisions. Not all candidates will get on the endangered species list and receive special attention, nevertheless, it is our obligation to consider all species whose habitat has been or is being threatened. Though this is good progress, delays are pervasive. Budget shortages, changes of administration, past mismanagement and politics have slowed this crucial process.

Other issues cannot overshadow endangered species. According to the Department of Interior, 34 species went extinct in 1990 while on the waiting list to be considered. Human activity is the main cause of habitat destruction, which can irreparably damage already delicate ecosystems. The petroleum industry has expressed concern that the lesser prairie chicken and the Gunnison sage grouse will be placed on the endangered species list. If so, much of their habitat will be put under the supervision of the wildlife service, and considered “critical habitat”. These species’ habitat has been used for farming and oil exploration.
It is true that the economy and industry is key to the prosperity of this nation, but that cannot discount the issue of wildlife preservation. It is our obligation as humans and Americans to be good stewards of the environment and to give these animals respect and attention they deserve.