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The Endangered Species Act By The Numbers

The gray wolf is protected by the Endangered Species Act, but some say it is sufficiently recovered to be removed from the list.
Jean Beaufort
CCO Public Domain

There are few environmental debates more heated than whether or not to add - or drop - an animal from the Endangered Species Act. Case in point: the debate over whether or not gray wolves in the American West are sufficiently recovered to deserve removal from the list.

In the Act’s forty five year history, only thirty nine species have been declared fully recovered. Critics of the Endangered Species Act often cite that as evidence that the law is ineffective, and too cumbersome to be worthwhile.

But a new analysis finds that the Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of almost three hundred species. Here are the numbers:

Year the Endangered Species Act was passed: 1973

U.S. species currently on the list: 1,471 animals, 947 plants

Average time on the Endangered Species list: 25 years

Species removed from the list because fully recovered: 39 

Species that have gone extinct since being listed: 4 confirmed, 22 possible

Estimated species the ESA has prevented from going extinct: 291

Noah Greenwald, Endangered Species Director at the Center for Biological Diversity and lead author of the new study, says many listed species are slowly increasing, meaning that the number in the fully recovered column should continue to grow with time. 

"It just shows just the incredible power of the Endangered Species Act and the fact that people do indeed care," Greenwald said.

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