On Behalf of Endangered Species

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Published on: Feb. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

to two-thirds of the world's species.

The work to save endangered species is our opportunity to preserve as much biodiversity as possible, to slow down the impact of human population and progress before we create an impoverished planet. We are the ones who must shoulder this responsibility.

Endangered species work trickles down from national to local efforts. Enactment of the provisions of the Endangered Species Act is the responsibility of the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service, which maintains a list of federally endangered and threatened species (see definitions, this page), makes recovery plans for each of those species and reviews projects and actions that could adversely affect listed species.

Missouri presently has 23 federally listed species (see list). The Ecological Services Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Columbia reviews about 100 actions a year that may have an impact on endangered species.

In those cases where endangered species might be affected, the office goes into consultation with the agency, developer or individual to minimize the impact of the road, bridge or other construction. In some cases, projects can be redesigned. In others, the endangered species might be relocated or comparable habitat created to replace the habitat affected.

Missouri has been spared confrontations over endangered species like those generated out west by the spotted owl. "In all my years here," said U.S. F&WS acting field supervisor Rick Hansen, "I cannot recall a single project that we've stopped in Missouri."

Not all states contribute resources to saving endangered species, but Missouri has decided that such work is crucial. "Missouri is one of the best, no question about that," Hansen said, "and I absolutely depend on the Conservation Department's top-rated biologists and their data. I mostly push paper in here, but the Conservation Department has the people in the field that can provide me with information that I can move forward."

Extinction is long in the making, and the Endangered Species Act is a relative newborn at 25. Even in this relatively short time, however, it has been responsible for some impressive results. No fewer than 18 species have been removed or upgraded from the list, and populations of about 60 other listed species are increasing their numbers or expanding their range as a result of protection under the Act. Untold other species also have benefited from habitat protection, improvement or restoration work on behalf of endangered species.

The forces toward extinction are large and many-faceted, not easily corrected by individual action. However, the Endangered Species Act provides a tool that can ensure that the world will continue to be populated by a wide diversity of species. So let's celebrate its birthday and hail the achievements of the Endangered Species Act. And let us hope that we seeing only the beginning of its long and productive career.

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