Endangered Species Act

In 1973, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which designated and defined “endangered” and “threatened” statuses for native plants and animals. Richard Nixon signed the Act into law, stating that, “Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed.”

Today, around 2,270 species are considered threatened or endangered. “Endangered” species are at risk of becoming extinct in the near future (entire population or key local population) while “threatened” species are at risk of becoming endangered in the near future.

In addition to protecting the listed species, the ESA also requires federal agencies to take action to protect species’ “critical habitats,” or habitats that are necessary for the continued survival of a species. This makes it a powerful and effective tool that we use regularly to protect imperiled species in our region.

The ESA is one of the most successful pieces of legislation ever passed. 99% of the species protected by the Act have been saved from extinction. And 90% of Americans support the Endangered Species Act.

Download more information about the ESA.

Some of the species considered “threatened” in Colorado:

  • Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse
  • River Otter
  • Mexican Spotted Owl
  • Lesser Prairie-Chicken
  • Greenback Cutthroat Trout

Some of the species considered “endangered” in Colorado:

  • Boreal Toad
  • Plains Sharp-Tailed Grouse
  • Least Tern
  • Rio Grande Sucker
  • Black-Footed Ferret
  • Lynx
  • Kit Fox 

Current Threats to the ESA

Federal Bills

S.935/H.R.2134 - Endangered Species Management Self Determination Act
Senate Bill 935 would amend the 1973 Endangered Species Act to allow governors of states to regulate endangered and threatened species within their states. It would also amend the Migratory Bird Treaty to allow killing or other interference with black vultures and ravens that are deemed a threat to property or a predation threat.

The second way SB935 would also undermine the ESA is by delisting all species on the list and requiring congressional approval for all species readmitted to a new list. In addition, species would be automatically delisted every five years and then be required to seek approval once again.

H.R.2603 - Saving America's Endangered Species Act
This bill would amend the Endangered Species Act by removing all non-native species from protection under the ESA. This would needlessly remove exotic species from the endangered species list. For more information on how the ESA protects species outside U.S. borders, read the article from the Audubon Society on imports of exotic species
S.376/H.R.1273 - 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act
Under this bill, the Secretary of the Interior would be required to publish, online, the scientific basis for the listing of all species on the endangered and threatened species list. This would require the Fish and Wildlife Service to apply a much more rigorous review process to candidate species. In addition, the biologists working for the FWS will not have the time or resources to provide the amount of scientific data required under the bill, resulting in far fewer species being granted protection under ESA.
H.R.717 - Listing Reform Act
H.R. 717 would reform the way that species are placed (and taken off) the Endangered Species List by changing the ways in which species applications to be put on the list are prioritized by the FWS, for example, by not being prioritized above applications to remove species from the list. Additionally, new rules regarding wait times for citizen petitions to place species on the list will essentially remove this method as a way species get listed, which accounts for 95% of the species added in the last 10 years. If a species being listed as “threatened” is determined by the FWS to have economic consequences, the status can be withheld, functionally eliminating the status of “threatened” itself.

Other Threats

New formula proposal to Fish and Wildlife Services
 Another potential threat to the species protected under the ESA is a new proposal being considered by the FWS that would eliminate protections for certain species through a mathematical formula.

While the intent of the proposal would be to reallocate federal funding to species that have a greater chance of recovering, conservationists worry that species with less chance of recovery will be stripped of funding, with the FWS essentially giving up on them and letting them go extinct.

Budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior
The budget released by the White House in May would cut funding to the Department of the Interior by $1.6 billion in the 2018 fiscal year, down from its current funding of $13.2 billion. In addition, the administration announced plans to reallocate its funding to the promotion of drilling for fossil fuels on public lands and in federal waters. The FWS’s budget itself would be cut by 8.6%.
Committee Hearings on 'modernization' of the Endangered Species Act
In February of this year, Senator John Barrasso (R) of Wyoming made remarks at a committee oversight hearing for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that proposed that the Endangered Species Act was ineffective and should be “modernized” in some way. In May, at another oversight hearing, Sen. Barrasso argued that states should play a larger role in administering the Endangered Species Act.

Ways to Oppose Threats to the ESA

Send a message to your representatives to let them know that Coloradans support a strong Endangered Species Act and are willing to act to preserve our state’s biological diversity.

  1. Download, print, sign, and send one of RMW’s ESA postcards to your representatives.
    RMW has created a postcard you can use to tell your senator that you care about Colorado species. Download, print, sign, and send these ESA Postcards.
  2. Send a personalized letter to your representatives.
    Sending a personalized letter to your senator is a good way to let them know you care. Contact information for Colorado senators and some talking points can be found below.
  3. Write a Letter to the editor.
    Write a letter to the editor (LTE) to your local paper explaining why you support the ESA! The editorial pages of your paper is a great venue to reach thousands of other people, including policy makers. A list of a few key Front Range Newspapers with links to their submission guidelines as well as tips for writing your LTE can be found below.

Colorado’s senators and their contact information:

Sen. Michael Bennet (D)
261 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-5852
Fax: 202-228-5097

Sen. Corey Gardner
354 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-5941
Fax:  (202) 224-6524

Talking points regarding ESA threats to include in personal message:

  • The Endangered Species Act has prevented 99% of species on the Endangered Species List from going extinct.
  • Preserving and protecting endangered species sustains Colorado’s biological diversity and ecological health.
  • Failures of the act to recover some species is the result of inadequate funding to implementation of the act, and increased funding rather than “modernization” is the way to fix this problem.
  • Tourism is the second-largest industry in Colorado. In 2015 77.7 million visitors to Colorado spent $19.1 billion. Preserving endangered species will keep people coming to Colorado for its unmatched nature tourism.
  • Transferring ESA authority from the federal government to state government will not make the Act more effective, since species are only listed after state actions prove insufficient to protect them.
  • 90% of Americans support the Endangered Species Act, making it one of the most popular and enduring pieces of legislation on the books. Coloradans will elect legislators who take a stand to preserve and protect the species that make our state unique.

Front Range Newspapers & Submission Guidelines

Tips for Writing an LTE

  • Use your own words. Don’t copy and paste from our talking points. Many papers won’t print letters if they suspect they are part of a letter writing campaign.
  • Keep your letter short. Pick one or two of the sample talking points and focus on them.
  • Refer to your elected representatives by name in the LTE and urge them to protect the ESA.
  • Write or copy and paste the text of your letter into the body of your email. Do not attach the letter to your email.
  • Letters must include full name, home address, day and evening phone numbers. It may be edited for length, grammar, and accuracy. Your phone number and address will not be published.
  • Rocky Mountain Wild (Tehri Parker), Defenders of Wildlife (Caitlin Cattelino), and the Endangered Species Coalition (Hailey Hawkins) are happy to review your letter before you submit it if you would prefer.