North American Endangered Species

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For decades, conservationists, biologists and policy makers have struggled to have an impact on North America’s endangered species.

The Endangered Species Act was enacted in 1973 to protect plants and animal species threatened with extinction. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency of the Department of the Interior, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service, an agency of the Department of Commerce, work together with state and federal agencies, local governments, tribes, private landowners and the public to protect and promote the recovery of the nation’s imperiled species.

Under the ESA, the Interior Department is primarily responsible for terrestrial and fresh water species; the Commerce Department has the lead responsibility for most marine and anadromous species, such as salmon.

The Endangered Species Act currently protects more than 1,300 species in the United States and about 570 species abroad.  An additional 249 species have been identified as candidates for protection under the Act.

Many of the regulations implementing provisions of the ESA were promulgated in the 1980s and do not reflect advances in conservation biology and genetics, as well as recent court decisions interpreting the Act’s provisions.

For 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries Service have launched a joint effort to identify and implement administrative changes to the Endangered Species Act aimed at accelerating recovery of imperiled species, enhancing on-the-ground conservation delivery, and better engaging the resources and expertise of partners to meet the goals of the ESA.

For more information regarding the Endangered Species Act and efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to improve its implementation, visit: