accelerating Endangered Species recovery
The U.S. Endangered Species Act remains the organizing tool for conserving most of America's imperiled wildlife. The Act has ample flexibility to accommodate better outcomes for wildlife. But there are also ways that Congress could make it more effective. We engage on opportunities to keep the Act 95 percent effective at preventing extinctions, recover far more species faster and with less funding, and do both in ways that work better for our economy and the responsible stewards of our lands and waters. Below are some of our current initiatives.
BETTER RULES AND POLICIES
We are helping to shape the next generation of rules, policies, and practices under the Act. We strive for more transparency and predictability in how the Act is administered--making it easier for people to follow, and rewarding those who invest in conservation earlier. We also advocate for policies that use or promote technology, because it can increase the speed and effectiveness of conservation while reducing its cost. When we evaluate ideas for changes to rules and policies under the Act, we aim for accuracy, fairness, and pragmatism. See our analysis of the 2019 changes to the Act's regulations.
INNOVATIVE CONSERVATION PROJECTS
We work with various partners to test innovative conservation projects. For example, we are helping to develop a conservation plan to conserve the monarch butterfly in the lower 48-states--the largest ever Endangered Species Act agreement. Another example is our partnership with Syngenta to create a framework for restoring endangered species habitat on agricultural lands to offset the effects of agricultural pesticide use on those species
HARMONIZING PESTICIDE USE AND SPECIES CONSERVATION
We collaborate with the federal government, universities, agrochemical companies and their customers, and other conservation groups to solve a 45-year problem under the Act: how to minimize the impact of pesticides on endangered species, without disrupting our nation's ability to provide food, feed, and fiber, and to protect public health from disease-carrying pests. Our work on this issue covers policy and regulatory innovations, federal legislation, science and data improvements, increasing funding for pesticide risk assessments, and on-the-ground conservation initiatives. Learn more here.
Endangered species conservation is full of unknowns, and always will be. Technology can help us learn far more about wildlife, quickly and cheaply. NASA satellite images, for example, allow us to monitor the condition of species habitat for free. And data science tools can vastly improve conservation decisions. We are using these tools to understand past decisions under the Act, so that wildlife managers can make better decisions in the future. For example, we helped develop a new system to improve how recovery funding is spent.
Fueling a wildlife restoration economy
If the private sector can profit from wildlife conservation, they become powerful champions of even more conservation. We develop and pursue incentives for the private sector to thrive in the wildlife restoration business. Endangered species "banks" are one example of this approach that deserve more attention. We also work on incentives for states to lead more on endangered species conservation.
Building a better endangered species act
It has been too long since a bipartisan Congress sought common ground to improve endangered species conservation, but we have not given up hope. We need a law that better reflects the 21st century realities of how effective, dynamic conservation happens in the Anthropocene, not 1960s assumptions of a static world and a wilderness without humanity's footprint. We develop ideas for what a better Act would look like, because we reject the status quo as good enough for wildlife or people.
Biodiversity and National Defense
Department of Defense lands have the highest density of ESA-listed species among all federal lands. Under the broad umbrella of national defense, we are working with DoD on strategies to enhance both conservation and the military mission. One of our work products is an April 2020 report and summary we wrote that capture major challenges to and opportunities for advancing conservation and military goals.
EXPERIMENTAL POPULATIONS – REVIEWING A CONSERVATION AND CONFLICT MANAGEMENT TOOL
More than 70% of recovery plans for imperiled species call for the establishment of new populations – our report reviews the 81 cases where a special ‘experimental population’ has been established in law.
CLIMATE-SMART ENDANGERED SPECIES POLICIES
New Endangered Species Act policies are needed to ensure we preserve as many species as possible as the effects of climate change get worse. Our report details five major policy recommendations.
The 2019 changes to the ESA regulations created a new definition of "foreseeable future," which is used to determine whether to list a species as "threatened" under the Act. We've completed the most comprehensive study on how our federal wildlife agencies interpret this key phrase. Visit our project page.
Special 4(d) rules tailor the amount of protections for species listed as threatened. New changes to the ESA may affect the way that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues these rules. We have tracked how the rules have been used in the past, and will continue to update this visualization after the new changes are finalized. Visit our project page.
EPIC PODCAST, EPISODE 1: INTERVIEW WITH DR. LEE TALBOT
We started a podcast interviewing people who were instrumental in the history of the Endangered Species Act. For our first podcast, we interviewed Lee Talbot about his career conserving wildlife, including helping to draft the Endangered Species Act. Listen to the interview here.
ENDANGERED SPECIES RECOVERY: A RESOURCE ALLOCATION PROBLEM
Science, Vol. 362, Issue 6412.
We coauthored "Endangered Species Recovery: A Resource Allocation Problem," which explains why wildlife agencies should explicitly prioritize how they allocate their limited funding for endangered species recovery. The article also introduces a new tool, the Recovery Explorer, for comparing different allocation schemes.
ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT: 2018 ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM
"Endangered Species Act: 2018 Administrative Reform" is our comprehensive, balanced analysis of the 2018 Trump administration proposals to amend the Endangered Species Act regulations. We also created an accompanying online table that summarizes each of the 36 proposed changes we identified.
HABITAT EXCHANGE: A NEW TOOL TO ENGAGE LANDOWNERS IN CONSERVATION
"Habitat Exchange: A New Tool to Engage Landowners in Conservation" is the third in a series of working papers by wildlife legal expert, Michael J. Bean. This paper reviews a relatively new tool that could spur proactive conservation of species habitat for salable mitigation credits.
SAFE HARBOR AGREEMENTS: AN ASSESSMENT
"Safe Harbor Agreements: An Assessment,” is the second in a series of working papers by wildlife legal expert, Michael J. Bean. This paper reviews the Safe Harbor Agreements that have been developed over the past 22 years to help endangered species and private landowners.
LANDOWNER ASSURANCES UNDER THE ESA
“Landowner Assurances Under the ESA,” is the first in a series of working papers by wildlife legal expert, Michael J. Bean. This paper reviews the diversity of tools that have been developed under the Endangered Species Act to give private landowners reasonable assurances and that have allowed thousands of landowners, local government, and businesses to become partners in endangered species conservation or leaders in conservation plans that balance wildlife needs and economic growth.