Celebrating the Endangered Species Act

Nene, Kauai, Hawaii

Nene, Kauai, Hawaii

All the creatures photographed in this post were nearly exterminated to extinction if it had not been for this law.


Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the most important U.S. law for protecting wildlife and plants.


Enacted by the 93rd United States Congress and signed by President Nixon on December 28, 1973, the Act is administered by two federal agencies:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Bald Eagle, Calif.

Bald Eagle, Calif.

ESA protects endangered vertebrates, invertebrates, non-flowering plants and flowering plants.


Originally developed to protect U.S. species, there are further worldwide extensions today.  Read more here.


Grizzly Bear, Denali NP, Alaska

Grizzly Bear, Denali NP, Alaska

In the 1950s and 1960s the American alligator, victim of a highly profitable trade, was hunted nearly to extinction.


Then legislation was set into place, and today there are over a million alligators in the southern U.S.


Stuffed Passenger Pigeon, in Audubon's house in Audubon, PA

Pre-ESA — Passenger Pigeons went extinct. Embalmed, in Audubon’s house, Audubon, PA

Scientists and citizens first became alert to the possibility of animal extinction in the early 1900s.  At that time the passenger pigeon, a bird species that graced North America in flocks of billions, was disappearing.


Early conservationists passed legislation in a few states, but it was disregarded; the efforts, futile.  In the end, one man, Charles Whitman, had about a dozen passenger pigeons left, in captivity.


His many attempts to breed, even cross-breed with other doves, were unsuccessful because this highly gregarious bird only gathered and bred in large numbers.  In 1903 they stopped breeding and gradually died.   The sole surviving female was housed in the Cincinnati Zoo for 29 years, before she died on September 1, 1914.


Bison Bull, Yellowstone, WY, USA

Bison Bull, Yellowstone, WY, USA

The American bison is another example.  It roamed the early American grasslands in massive herds.  Before 1800, there were 60,000,000 bison; by 1900 there were 300.


Wolf, Denali, Alaska

Wolf, Denali, Alaska

Habitat loss was and still is a major threat.  Other problems include pesticides, over-hunting, poaching, harvesting, and disease.


The Act is designed not only to protect species, but to recover species, by protecting and recovering habitat.


Whooping Cranes, Horicon Wildlife Refuge, Wisc.

Whooping Cranes, Horicon Wildlife Refuge, Wisc.

As the earth’s surface becomes more human populated (7.3 billion and growing), the crunch for space becomes more dramatic.


The importance of this law, therefore, continues to be paramount in protecting and maintaining species and their habitats.


Peregrine Falcon, Calif.

Peregrine Falcon, Calif.

A few notable recovered species include: bald eagle (417 in 1963 increased to 11,040 pairs in 2007); peregrine falcon, whooping crane, brown pelican, wolf, grizzly bear, gray whale, Hawaiian goose.


Click here for endangered or threatened list.


California Condor, Calif.

California Condor, Calif.

As a birder, it is shocking to witness beloved species and their decline.  There are native bird species in Hawaii that I easily spotted 20 years ago that I will probably never see again.


Fortunately there are ornithologists, scientists, legislators, and citizens who are active and vigilant in protecting our earth and our species.


What you can do:

  • support wildlife refuges and parks, wildlife-friendly organizations, even city bird cams.  (Note: if you use a park or refuge, don’t park your car outside the bounds to skirt the fee.  Pay the fee and help the beleaguered parks.)
  • educate and engage our children
  • respect pet leash laws
  • vote for laws and congressional representatives that advocate species protection
  • support bans on pesticides and lead ammunition
  • while traveling, avoid souvenirs made from animal parts
  • be aware of and report poaching and over-hunting
  • support human population control


Brown Pelicans, Calif.

Brown Pelicans, Calif.

I had lunch with elderly friends last week who were enthralled with the brown pelicans feeding outside the restaurant window.  They were unaware that these robust birds, in huge flocks that day, narrowly escaped extinction in our lifetime.  Tell everyone you know.


With the extensive dedication of scientists and citizens, in a variety of capacities, we can all pat ourselves on the back today, for continuing the efforts of our predecessor pioneers who started this effort over a century ago.  Let’s keep it going for future generations….


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander



53 thoughts on “Celebrating the Endangered Species Act

  1. Bravo Jet! Excellent post, I agree 100%, we have to educate people about the importance of preserving the species of all animals and their natural environment! Thank you my friend! 🙂

    • Thanks so very much, HJ. Since you are a birder and wildlife enthusiast, I am certain you have seen changes over the years, and your comment proves you are a follower. Thanks so very much for your enthusiasm here, and in the outdoor world as well. 😀

  2. Jet – Good and interesting blog. Milwaukee, Wisconsin was a big force in bringing back the peregrine falcon in the Midwest. Our local utility company built falcon boxes in their high smokestacks, etc. They also set up internet cameras that broadcasts the births and early lives of the baby chicks. One man bands the chicks with children watching and learning. He also follows the grown birds that can be found all over the Midwest. A friend of mine worked with the utility company’s camera’s computers and he would share pictures and reports with me. One year I took a tour of the various nest boxes – fascinating.

    • Hi Peggy — thanks so much for your comment. The generosity of the Milwaukee utility company is just what I am talking about — educating, protecting, sharing. That’s a very uplifting note, thanks so much for sharing it. 😀

  3. Pingback: Celebrating the Endangered Species Act | Making Waves Outreach ⚘ Flyers For Animal Rights

    • We were very lucky to have others before us put the ESA in place, all we have to do is support it. Thanks so much, Sharon, it is always a pleasure to have your visits and comments. And Happy New Year!

    • You’re right, pc, so much to celebrate, so much left to do. So glad you enjoyed the ESA post. The grizzly photo was taken from inside the Denali green bus…. Happy new year to you! 🙂

  4. Interesting post. I did not know that about the Brown Pelican. I’ll be communing soon with the endangered whooping cranes as I work my way toward Rockport TX. Stay tuned for plenty of whooping crane photos 🙂

    • I thought of you, Ingrid, when I addressed the whooping cranes, and the Crane Foundation in WI. Have a great time in Rockport, how wonderful! Thanks so much for stopping by. 🙂

  5. Really makes you think. You always bring new and important info to those of us who aren’t as devoted as you. Thanks, Jet & Athena (the photos bring your message to life!)

    • It is hard work defending the species and their habitats, I am so grateful to the folks who have made that happen over the decades. So glad you enjoyed the post, dear Nan — thanks so much.

    • Thanks so much, Jim. Since you have your annual pilgrimage to photograph the sandhill cranes at Bosque, I am sure you are aware of the plight of sandhill cranes, some of whom have troubled populations. Photography, like yours, is a great way to highlight our beloved creatures.

  6. That’s a post of great value,dear Jet!Wonderful photos displaying creatures of rare beauty in the animal kingdom!Thank God there are some thoughtful law-makers,scientists and animal lovers like you,who show their loving care and protect those treasures of nature.Each species is part of ourselves and if lost,we lose part our soul.Posts like that should be hanging on the walls of schools and any other educational institutes to sensitise young people and Sts from early stages.How sad this gorgeous passenger pigeon with the motley plumage has gone.I do appreciate all your suggestions how to protect endangered species and help the specific organisations with their efforts and their actions.Thank you for this post dear friend Jet!Have a brilliant & creative rest of the week 🙂 ღ 🙂

    • Thank you so much, dear Doda, for your lovely understanding of this post, and the importance of protecting our wildlife in all its various forms. The fact that so many stalwart individuals before us have made a difference, makes it inspiring to continue with their work. My thanks to you, and best wishes for a great rest of the week, dear Doda. 😀

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