Opinion » Letters

The 45th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act


From generations of science and research, the United States has shaped meaningful public policy, and this month I am excited to recognize the 45th anniversary of the United States Endangered Species Act.

On Dec. 27, 1973, President Richard Nixon signed the act into law to protect and revive critical animal and plant species from extinction, and it has had notable success. The act's strong protections have allowed scientists to work to stabilize species that are integral to our ecosystem and, in 2013, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) noted that due to the Endangered Species Act, there is a 98 percent survival rate of species classified as threatened or endangered.

California has directly benefited from the enactment of the act. In the 19th century, fishers hunted the southern sea otter for their dense warm fur. What was not apparent at the time was that these marine mammals are vital to the health of the ocean.

The southern sea otters were hunted and on the brink of extinction when, in 1977, the USFWS placed them under the federal Endangered Species Act. Through the rigorous efforts of the scientific community and the USFWS recovery team, there has been a remarkable recovery of the southern sea otter population, and this is just one of the countless species that have flourished due to the Endangered Species Act.

There is still much work to be done. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that there are currently 1,465 animals and 947 plants that fall under the category of threatened or endangered. The state of California has recognized the need for the continued support of the act and has implemented additional protections for species facing the greatest threats.

As we embark on the 45th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, it is important to recognize that science has had a positive impact on public policy. It is critical that as a state we continue to use science and data to inform policy decisions, as this is how we ensure a healthy and sustainable California.

State Sen. Bill Monning


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