The Endangered Species Act 101: An Overview

Learn how the Endangered Species Act (ESA) works in our new series! Meg Evansen, our Conservation Science & Policy Analyst, explains the Endangered Species Act in under 90 seconds in this helpful series of primers.

In Part 1, Meg uses sea turtles to help illustrate why the ESA is essential for the recovery of endangered species.

Click to view video transcript

In 1973, President Nixon signed our nation’s most important law for preventing extinction, the Endangered Species Act.

The ESA is our strongest law for protecting imperiled wildlife and there are quite a few dimensions to how it works.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service help make sure that the ESA is carried out as Congress intended.

This law has been instrumental in recovering species, like sea turtles, and protecting the habitat and the ecosystems they need.

The ESA defines when a species should be listed as threatened or endangered and requires the use of the best available science to help guide that decision-making process.

Listing was a no-brainer for sea turtles, which used to number in the millions but are now threatened by things like coastal development, climate change, egg harvesting, and more.

Once listed, various conservation programs kick in.

Funding, collaborations, and recovery plans help stakeholders, from landowners and community members to state and federal agencies, help conserve sea turtles.

The ESA also ensures that any actions federal agencies take will not jeopardize the continued existence of sea turtles or damage any of their designated critical habitat.

From ensuring sea turtles are protected against harm and extinction to planning for their recovery, the ESA is essential for conserving species.

It involves everyone, from federal agencies to individuals, and we all work together to help stop extinction.

Meg Evansen
Conservation Science and Policy Analyst

As the Conservation Science and Policy Analyst in the Center for Conservation Innovation at Defenders, Meg assists with the analysis of scientific research and policy implementation to find new and creative solutions for wildlife conservation.