The Endangered Species Act 101: Section 4

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 a series of primers.

Part 2 of our new ESA series breaks down Section 4 - an important section for giving Florida panthers and other species protections. Here, Meg explains how Section 4 helps endangered species move towards the ultimate goal of recovery.

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Florida Panthers were in danger of extinction in 1973, but now there are a couple hundred thanks to the Endangered Species Act.

To get protections back then the Florida panther was evaluated under the section that serves as the gateway to the ESA: Section 4.

Section 4 describes the circumstances in which a species qualifies as “Threatened” or Endangered; when it doesn’t, and when it’s recovered.

The strength of this section is that these determinations are based solely on the Best Available Science.

This section also describes how to designate critical habitat for species based on essential features like prey availability or other conditions necessary for the species, like room to roam for panthers.

One of the main goals of the ESA is to recover imperiled species and section 4 directs the development of plans to aid the agency in achieving this goal.

These plans are logically called “recovery plans” and they include actions that will help the conservation of the species, like captive breeding or reintroduction.

The plans also outline specific standards for recovery, like a certain number of populations or individuals.

This section also requires status reviews that are to be completed every 5 years.

These reviews help inform whether a species, like the panther, is declining or recovering and whether the US Fish and Wildlife Service needs to change its strategy for recovery.

That’s section 4 in a nutshell: an important section for giving panthers and other species protections and helping to move them toward the ultimate goal of recovery.

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.