The Daily Wild: Endangered Species Often Wait 12 Years or More for Protections
Three subspecies of foxes living on islands off California’s coast are rare success stories in the history of the United States’ federally endangered species list, becoming just the 37th animal to be deemed “recovered” by wildlife officials since the Endangered Species Act passed in 1973.
But in a new study published in the journal Biological Conservation, delays in getting animals and plants that need protection listed as “endangered” is leaving more species susceptible to extinction.
“While the law lays out a process time of two years for a species to be listed, what we found is that, in practice, it takes on average 12.1 years,” said Emily Puckett, coauthor of the study conducted out of the University of Missouri. “Some species moved through the process in six months, but some species, including many flowering plants, took 38 years to be listed—almost the entire history of the ESA.”
The researchers analyzed 1,338 species listed for protection under the ESA between January 1974 and October 2014, and compared the times it took each listed animal or plant to move through the process. They soon discovered that reptiles, fish, birds, amphibians, and mammals had a significantly shorter wait time than did invertebrates and flowering plants.
They also found that species that had a longer wait time for designation had real-world consequences. One example noted by the study pitted the island night lizard, which waited 1.19 years for designation, against the fringed orchid, which took 14.7 years. “The lizard has since recovered and been removed from endangered status; the orchid is still considered threatened,” the authors wrote.
(Photo: Kevin Schafer/Getty Images)