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Endangered Species Act (ESA)


Brown Bear - Ursus arctos.

Brown Bear - Ursus arctos.

Photo © Suzann Julien / iStockPhoto.
Definition: The US Endangered Species Act (ESA) is Federal legislation that aims to conserve the ecosystems upon which endangered and threatened species depend. The ESA was signed into law by President Nixon in December, 1973. The ESA protects plant and animal species and is jointly administered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries. Its aim is twofold: to provide protection for species that are in danger of extinction and to conserve the habitats on which those species depend.

If you're interested in reading the text of the ESA, you can download a PDF version of the US Endangered Species Act from the US Fish & Wildlife Service website. Some significant sections of the act include:

  • Section 4 - Listing of species, designation of critical habitat.
  • Section 6 - Providing of financial support to States to support conservation of endangered species.
  • Section 7 - Requires all Federal agencies to ensure they do not further endanger any listed species or critical habitat.
  • Section 8 - Outlines international coordination of conservation efforts.
  • Section 9 - Defines prohibited actions.
  • Section10 - Sets out guidelines for permits to circumvent prohibited activities.
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