Endangered Species: Time and Costs Required to Recover Species Are Largely Unknown

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Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "The Endangered Species Act of 1973 protects species facing extinction (endangered species) or likely to face extinction (threatened species) and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The act has long been a lightning rod for political debate about the extent to which the nation's natural resources should be protected and how best to protect them. Implementation of the act has also been the subject of numerous lawsuits that have consumed significant program resources. Since the act's inception, about 1,300 domestic species have been placed on the list of ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. April 6, 2006.

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Description

Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "The Endangered Species Act of 1973 protects species facing extinction (endangered species) or likely to face extinction (threatened species) and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The act has long been a lightning rod for political debate about the extent to which the nation's natural resources should be protected and how best to protect them. Implementation of the act has also been the subject of numerous lawsuits that have consumed significant program resources. Since the act's inception, about 1,300 domestic species have been placed on the list of threatened and endangered species. Supporters of the act claim it is an indication of the act's success that only 9 of these species have gone extinct; particularly, since by the time they are listed species, they are often in critical condition. Critics, on the other hand, counter that it is an indication of the act's failure that only 17 of these species have "recovered," or improved to the point that they no longer need the act's protection. However, we believe that these numbers, by themselves, are not a good gauge of the act's success or failure; additional information on when, if at all, a species can be expected to fully recover and be removed from the list would provide needed context for a fair evaluation of the act's performance. Similarly, estimates of the total costs to recover the species would be necessary to evaluate whether sufficient resources have been devoted to recovery efforts. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), collectively referred to as "the services," are the federal agencies responsible for ensuring implementation of the Endangered Species Act. The act generally requires the services to develop and implement recovery plans for the conservation and survival of endangered and threatened species. As of January 2006, the services had finalized and approved 558 recovery plans covering 1,049 species, or about 82 percent of the 1,272 endangered or threatened species protected in the United States. Proposed amendments to the Endangered Species Act are under consideration, and Congress has asked us to provide information on the recovery plans themselves and the progress made on their implementation to help facilitate this effort. To address these issues, for a randomly selected sample of 107 recovery plans, we identified the extent to which plans included (1) overall time and cost estimates to recover species and (2) the three key elements set forth in the 1988 amendment. We determined the plans' time and cost estimates and the extent to which they contain the key elements based on information contained in the plans. We also conducted work on a group of 30 selected species to determine the factors affecting the length of recovery and the role that recovery plans have played in the species' progress toward recovery. On February 8, 2006, we briefed Congressional staff on our findings relating to our work addressing the 107 recovery plans. At Congressional request, we are transmitting with this report the briefing slides that summarized our observations"

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • April 6, 2006

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. Endangered Species: Time and Costs Required to Recover Species Are Largely Unknown, text, April 6, 2006; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc299189/: accessed December 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.