The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is one of America's cornerstone environmental laws and has produced numerous success stories. Perhaps the most famous of these is the bald eagle, a national icon that, due in a large part to the pesticide DDT, had dwindled to fewer than 500 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states in the 1960s. Today, thanks to the protections of the ESA, the bald eagle population has recovered dramatically. Nearly 10,000 breeding pairs now thrive within the contiguous U.S. In total over 1,300 plant and animal species are protected under the ESA, including blue whales, American alligators, grizzly bears, and California condors.
The ESA was under siege for much of the George W. Bush era. For its part, the Obama Administration has restored some much-needed balance when it comes to protecting endangered species. But this important law is under attack in Congress, and sadly, the 2011 budget measure that funded the government through the end of the fiscal year contained a non-budget provision removing the Northern Rockies gray wolf from the Endangered Species list, marking the first time a species has been de-listed based on politics rather than science. LCV will continue fighting against these attacks.
As the effects of climate change become more pronounced, wildlife will be faced with ever greater challenges to their survival. Polar bears already are suffering due to melting sea ice, desert animals will face more severe droughts, and sea creatures will be forced to contend with the increasing acidification of their ocean environments. It is essential that funding be made available for protecting wildlife from the effects of global warming. For example, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which passed the House in June 2009, would have created a natural resources adaptation program and dedicated funding stream. LCV strongly supports programs like this to assist wildlife in adapting to a warming world.