The Endangered Species Act (ESA)

7 U.S.C. §136; 16 U.S.C. §460 et seq. (1973)

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) provides a program for the conservation of threatened and endangered plants and animals and the habitats in which they are found. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) of the Department of the Interior maintains  a worldwide list which, as of Feb. 20, 2008, included 1574 endangered species (599 are plants) and 351 threatened species (148 are plants). Species include birds, insects, fish, reptiles, mammals, crustaceans, flowers, grasses, and trees. Anyone can petition FWS to include a species on this list.

The law requires federal agencies, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service, to ensure that actions they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat of such species.  The law also prohibits any action that causes a “taking” of any listed species of endangered fish or wildlife. Likewise, import, export, interstate, and foreign commerce of listed species are all generally prohibited.

Read the full text of the ESA, or a PDF Version provided by the U.S. Senate (47 pp, 136K, About PDF).

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