The Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the 110th Congress: Conflicting Values and Difficult Choices Page: 4 of 21
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The Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the
110t" Congress: Conflicting Values and
Increasing numbers of animal and plant species face possible extinction.
Endangered and threatened species - and the law that protects them, the 1973
Endangered Species Act (ESA, 16 U.S.C. 1531, et seq.) - are controversial, in
part, because dwindling species are often harbingers of resource scarcity. The most
common cause of species' decline is habitat loss or alteration. Habitat loss occurs
due to development, changes in land management practices, competition from
invasive species, and other factors, nearly all related to economic, political, or social
interests.1 ESA has been among the most contentious environmental laws, because
of its strict substantive provisions, which can affect the use of both federal and non-
federal lands and resources. Congress faces the issue of how to balance these
interests (which may fall on various sides of any given species controversy) with the
protection of endangered and threatened species and, as stated in ESA, "the
ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend." Because
of strong support and strong opposition to the ESA, comprehensive endangered
species legislation has not been reauthorized since the last ESA authorization expired
in 1992. Instead, congressional efforts have focused on addressing some controversial
features of ESA. There were several attempts to enact comprehensive legislation that
would have reauthorized the ESA in the 109th Congress.2 These attempts are less
likely in the 110th Congress. Congress may shift to considering issues for oversight
such as the science used for making decisions and designation of critical habitat.
Further, Congress may also address issues related to the implementation and funding
of the ESA.
Background and Analysis
The 1973 ESA (P.L. 93-205, as amended; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1543) was a
comprehensive attempt to protect species at risk of extinction and to consider habitat
protection as an integral part of that effort. A stated purpose of ESA is to protect the
ecosystems of which listed species are a part. Under ESA, species of plants and
For example, see CRS Report RL33795, Avian Influenza in Poultry and Wild Birds, by Jim
Monke and M. Lynne Corn.
2 For a review of action by the 109E Congress on ESA, see CRS Report RL33468, The
Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the 109th Congress: Conflicting Values and Difficult
Choices, by Eugene H. Buck, M. Lynne Corn, Pervaze A. Sheikh, and Robert Meltz.
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The Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the 110th Congress: Conflicting Values and Difficult Choices, report, January 26, 2007; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc808616/m1/4/: accessed October 15, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.