Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act

A wolf, California condor and humpback whale mother with a calf

Majestic bald eagles soar over forested mountain slopes searching for prey, while gray wolves howl a melodious song in the distance. Gentle giants of the seas, humpback whales, gather to embark on their great annual migrations encircling the Hawaiian Islands and far beyond. California condors, long gone from Oregon skies, could soon be returning, gliding on swift air currents with outreached wings. All this and more, a world teeming with unique and fascinating life could have been gone with the blink of an eye. The reality we live in now where the most iconic species still exist – and many lesser known, but still vitally important ones too– is due to the protection of the Endangered Species Act.  

For half a century the popular and bipartisan Endangered Species Act of 1973 – signed into law by Richard Nixon on December 28th, and passed by a vote of 92-0 in the Senate and 355-4 in the House – has successfully guarded, conserved and recovered beloved species from the brink of extinction, while simultaneously protecting the places they call home. However, despite sustained public approval – a whopping 90% of voters in favor to be precise and scientific endorsement to boot– the ESA is under continuous assault from bad actors and their allies in Congress who attempt to weaken protections for countless imperiled species in favor of extractive industries. For example, in 2017 more than 400 organizations, including Oregon Wild, signed a letter to members of Congress to fight efforts to weaken the law. That’s why once again Oregon Wild and wildlife conservation advocacy groups nationwide are coming together this year to celebrate and defend the ESA on its 50 year anniversary!

While imperiled species don’t have time to wait and Trump-era attacks on the ESA have been slow to be reversed by the Biden administration, species also need critical funding so that their recovery plans can be implemented once protection is gained. That’s why Oregon Wild is leading the effort to pass the Recovering Oregon’s Wildlife Fund (HB3159), which would provide a bold, proactive solution to help at-risk species and mitigate habitat loss, climate change, invasive species, and many other impacts. These investments would boost critical programs, and advance the goal of ensuring imperiled species in Oregon receive the funding they need. At the federal level, Oregon Wild is also supporting the effort to pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA). RAWA is legislation that would invest over 1 billion into state wildlife agencies and Native American tribes to implement wildlife conservation and recovery. If RAWA passes, Oregon could receive an annual allocation of ~$25 million!

 The 50th anniversary of the ESA provides both a unique, year-long opportunity to build support for the Act and also boost critical funding needed to implement recovery plans for imperiled species. This year we will be celebrating conservation achievements, highlighting conservation needs, and reminding the public and decisionmakers why plants, fish and wildlife are beloved and vital. In 2023 and for the next fifty years and beyond, we must continue to defend, fund and strengthen the Endangered Species Act, so that future generations can experience the world's unique and diverse plants and animals, and the habitats upon which they depend. 

Please take action to protect imperiled species by signing the petition below!

Photo Credits
Bald Eagles: Matt Oliphant
Condor: Chris Trent