Today’s factismal: The Endangered Species Act was signed on December 28, 1973.
It is no secret that animals go extinct. Sometimes we cheer when that happens (smallpox, anyone?) but more often we bemoan the loss (the Carolina parakeet, the Western Black Rhino). Fortunately for the animals (and ourselves), we do more than just weep, wail, and gnash our teeth; we also work to preserve species like the tapir and the tiger to keep them from joining their brethren in extinction. And one of the most powerful tools for preserving animals on the brink of extinction is the Endangered Species Act, which was became law 41 years ago.
Today, thanks to the Endangered Species Act, twenty-eight species have gone from being in danger of extinction to being plentiful enough to be taken off the list (though some of them are still protected under other laws). Sadly, ten other species have become extinct during the same time period. And the Act continues to work today, thanks to citizen scientists like you. One of the more interesting and useful parts of the act is the provision that allows any US citizen to petition to have a species listed if it meets any one of five different criteria:
- If its habitat or range is threatened with the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment. (Think: polar bears.)
- If too many of the species have been used for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes. (Think: whales.)
- If disease or predation is causing a decline in the species. (Think: song birds.)
- If existing regulatory mechanisms don’t do enough to protect the species.
- If other factors threaten to make it extinct (Think: dinosaurs).
If petitioning NOAA (for marine species) or the Fish and Wildlife Service (for land species) to add a species to the list seems like too much paperwork (and who could blame you), then there are other ways that a citizen scientist can contribute. The most obvious of these is simply by adding your wildlife observations to Wildlife Watch. They’ll help you identify the critters that you’ve seen (endangered or not) and use that information to help track the health of various species. To join in on the fun, head over to: