Since ’01, Guarding Species Is Harder. Endangered Listings Drop Under Bush. By Juliet Eilperin. Washington Post Staff Writer.

The Bush Administration has not taken the initiative to list a single species. Two have gone extinct waiting during its “watch.” As far as not having enough resources to do the job or handle the petitions, it is a case of feigned constraint. The Administration asks for a pittance for the USFWS. While Congress increases the President’s request, the President’s budget request almost always sets the range.

For example, if the President asks 30-million, Congress may give 40-million; but if the President had asked 175-million, even a budget-cutting Congress might give 130-million dollars.

Almost no one in this Administration gives damn about endangered species, or just plain fish and wildlife.

About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

6 Responses to Since '01, Guarding Species Is Harder. Endangered Listings Drop Under Bush

  1. SmokyMtMan says:

    I think the main point here is that every single year we add many species to the list. Clinton and Bush Sr. each listed about 70 a year.

    Realistically, they both could have listed many more. And we know Bush Jr. is slowing listing down to a trickle. Actually, you have to wonder how effective the Endangered Species List actually is.

    Since 1971, we have ‘recovered’ 22 species (3 of them are gray wolves). About 10 listed species have gone extinct. Currently, about 2,000 species are listed. Wow, what a success rate. According to FWS, we have ‘recovered’ 1 percent of species listed as endangered (or threatened) since 1971.

    And we all know that realistically there are probably thousands of other species that should be on that list, but aren’t. From every measurement, the Endangered List is a failure. The only species that have been recovered are the very easy ones, such as the alligator, wolf (counted as 3 ‘recovered’ species), Brown Pelican, ect.

    My point is enviros are losing the war very badly. We are losing species, habitat, land use battles, wilderness designation is practically dead, climate change is not even addressed, water sources are drying or being depleted all over the country, etc.

    Even National Parks are losing species very quickly. I know first-hand how devastated the Everglades are, and I know the Great Smokies Mountains National Park has lost many species since its creation in the early 1930’s. Some of those species were found nowhere else, and they are EXTINCT. And 99% of them didn’t even make it onto the Endangered list.

    When National Parks can no longer protect animal and plant populations, the war is about over, and we are not the ones who will be celebrating victory.

  2. SmokyMtMan says:

    Just want add that the Everglades and the Smokies Parks are the 2 most biologically diverse Parks in the U.S. by far. They have suffered, and are suffering, many threats to their ecosystems.

    I won’t go into detail, but trust me when I say both Parks have been losing species for decades (some found nowhere else on earth).

    And these are National Parks!!! If Parks cannot protect species, what hope really remains? As a society, we have demonstrated the ability to destroy habitat, cause species extinctions, and alter ecosystems permenantly in our National Parks.

    What is the point of an endangered species list?

    It may be slowing things down, but we are still moving rapidly in the wrong direction. Business has won almost every enviro battle to this point, and they will win all the battles in the future, too.

    If this is false, why has the Endangered List, the greatest tool enviros have, been almost a total failure for the last 40 years??

  3. While the endangered species list doesn’t recover a lot of species, it does prevent their extinction.

    A species is more likely to go extinct while waiting to get on the list than when it is on the list.

    The Act needs to be improved. It could be made less burdensome and much swifter, but that won’t happen until the political alignment is right in Congress and the White House.

    The incentive structure of the Act needs to be legislatively changed so that it is to a landowner’s benefit to have a listed species on their property rather than a burden.

    More money needs to be appropriated. The amount appropriated is minuscule, although the Act can force government agencies and private entities to spend a lot. It think is generally too regulative, but that is what happens to some legislative mandates that are not repealed, but are starved of funds.

    Ideally the Act would focus more on saving endangered habitats. That way many species might be saved at once rather than an inefficient one at time.

  4. SmokyMtMan says:

    No doubt the Endangered Species Act is purposely under-funded. I agree that for it to be effective, it has to be strengthened in the ways you suggested.

    Over the years, I am familiar with many attempts to weaken the Act; unfortunately, I have never heard of any proposals to strengthen it.

    How much more money do the agencies require in order to be able to enforce the Act so it’s actually effective? Anyone ever do an analysis of that before?

    The Federal deficit is at $400 billion this year (almost a record), and the National debt is about $9 trillion. I see a far more likelihood of severe budget cuts before I see budget increases for any Federal agency, except for the Department of Defense, of course.

    The true weakness of this Act is a damn shame. The Act simply is not working, we are not recovering species; we are merely putting them on a waiting list for extinction.

  5. JB says:


    The purpose of the Act was to prevent extinctions; as Ralph points out, it has succeeded in that sense (listed species are less likely to go extinct). The problem (on the prevention side) is not with the Act, it is with an administration that refuses to fund and implement it. That said, I agree that the Act needs to be modified to be more proactive (i.e. promote recovery) as opposed to reactive (i.e. prevent extinction).

    To be clear, I think it’s important that our failings as a nation regarding endangered species are correctly attributed. The Act has some problems, but it is not to blame for our failings; it is still considered by many to be the most comprehensive environmental legislation every passed by any nation. The real problem is that the Executive branch has been unwilling to invest in the protection of endangered species; in fact, I would argue the Bush Administration is purposefully exploiting ambiguous language in the Act in order to promote the view that the Act is a failure (with the eventual intent of further weakening it, or abandoning it altogether). We (the people) are also to blame for not making this a central issue.

  6. SmokyMtMan says:


    We can all agree the Act is failing primarily due to lack of funds to enforce and implement it. It’s also quite clear to us this is not an accident.

    I agree with your assertion that “the Bush Administration is purposefully exploiting ambiguous language in the Act in order to promote the view that the Act is a failure (with the eventual intent of further weakening it, or abandoning it altogether).”

    Indeed, Richard Pombo of CA. was the head of the Natural Resource Committee in the House. He personally led several attempts to weaken provisions of the Act, often citing the Act’s failure to achieve its objectives as a main reason for doing so.

    Fortunately, his bills suffered defeat; which, happily enough, was the eventual fate of his political career as well.

    The Act’s current slide toward obsolescence should not keep me from seeing the intended meaning and value of the Act. It truly is a beautiful law, crafted from intentions not bent toward financial reward, but designed instead to preserve this nation’s unique and diverse inhabitants of our home’s nature.

    I thank you, JB, for reminding of that. The Act can be strengthened and improved, such as Ralph proposed. However, I would wager a decent sum that if the Act was fully funded and supported enthusiastically by the federal government, we would have lost only a fraction of the species we have since the act’s inception.

    I regret that issues such as this are so easily lost in the daily fog that the current American goes about their daily routines in. How can anyone see anything through this: Iraq, high energy prices, education for their children, rising inflation, Afghanistan, housing market troubles, a falling stock market, the reduction of civil liberties, national deficit at $9 trillion, upcoming national elections, political corruption, higher food prices….

    America’s wildlife and public lands are unique and are an important part of our national identity. They are an integral part of why America is a great country, and I truly hope we can apply the pressure to our politicians so that they make the right choices in the future that will determine if we will lose these species forever.


March 2008


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey