This paper aims to feature current scholarly research, related to the Endangered Species Act (ESA), that examines key issues in the face of climate change. Each section, entitled by the name of the article I proceed to analyze, presents a viewpoint about a specific shortcoming of wildlife management along with a solution. A key theme is a reverence for blending strengths of the old with new tactics particularly designed to tackle global warming. All of the articles promote aspects of the ESA to harness with innovative strategies to advance its success.
The Biodiversity Paradigm Shift
In her article, Kalyani Robbins (2015) defined the ESA as regulation created to protect vulnerable wildlife from anthropological impacts on ecosystems. She explained that ESA implementation has conventionally concentrated on establishing boundaries between humans and endangered wildlife under the premise that the latter can then have space to heal on their own (Robbins 2015). However, she crucially asserted that the hands-off approach is not acceptable in the context of climate change (Robbins 2015). She called for the audience to let go of the preservationist view, accept that global warming is a pressing issue and recognize that humans are in the position to manage it (Robbins 2015). Robbins promoted the ESA as she noted that, even though they were not specifically designed for climate adaptation, there are a plethora of ESA provisions in place that are useful to support the action-based strategies for wildlife and ecosystem management. For example, she described because agencies are supposed to take into account the economic impact of unoccupied critical habitat designation, it leads to them starting to consider the likely future migration patterns of a species at the time it is listed (Robbins 2015). However, she asserted that applying active management techniques, through the current ESA regulation in place, is voluntary (Robbins 2015). Here, she incorporated a Policy Sciences approach by noting that the ESA is lacking strong implementation (Czech and Krausman 2001).
Additionally, she recommended incorporating the new active management framework into the statute itself for the purpose of maximizing wildlife adaptation to climate change (Robbins 2015). I agree with her idea to re-word the ESA with climate change in mind as she implied that diction definitely matters. For example, the difference between the meanings of threatened and endangered plays a role in whether wildlife is being only protected or truly conserved. While the government is seemingly protecting species on the list by taking the necessary measures to keep them from going extinct, it is not executing through conservation because only 2% have fully recovered (CBS News 2019). So, saving animals on the brink of extinction, in the government’s eyes, is more so about keeping them on the list with minimal effort rather than removing them due to substantial progress. I agree with Robbins, considering there is a need to decrease separation between the definitions of threatened and endangered. Doing so makes humans more accountable for conserving biodiversity.
Redefining Baselines in Endangered Species Recovery
In this report, Jachowski et al. (2015) illustrated the benefits and drawbacks of historical spatial and genetic guidelines in endangered species recovery and the vast conservation of biodiversity. They promote the ESA as they explained historical data on baseline conditions remain indispensable to initial setting of recovery goals. For example, they noted that Aldo Leopold emphasized the need for use of wilderness areas as base-datum for controls to measure effects of wildlife management practices (Jachowski et al. 2015). However, they asserted situations will require more dynamic paths to recovering species (Jachowski et al. 2015).
From there, they outlined a way to advance the ESA as the authors presented a framework used to determine when baseline-deviating approaches should be implemented that requires both scientific input and authority-defined thresholds (Jachowski et al. 2015). They asserted that, in cases where species face extreme hazard and managers have a low chance of reducing or eliminating future threats within a species’ historical range, it is necessary to embrace a flexible recovery model that veers away from historical baselines (Jachowski et al. 2015). They recommended modern approaches that depart from conventional standards such as assisted colonization and intentional hybridization (Jachowski et al. 2015). The authors explained that accepting refined baseline data does not only bring potential to advance endangered species recovery but could have cascading effects on ecosystem-based approaches to conservation (Jachowski et al. 2015). Therefore, the authors took a Policy Sciences approach by focusing on analyzing the method by which conservation is executed and also adopted Critical Theory by seeing the potential for future generations to be oppressed as a result of sticking to baseline data (Czech and Krausman 2001). I agree with their simultaneous integration of both approaches and admire their recommendation to incorporate flexibility into conservation planning.
Adaptive Management in the Face of Climate Change and Endangered Species Protection
Lastly, Gardner (2013) highlighted the obstacles involved with incorporating adaptive management into the ESA along with a clear solution. She explained the adaptive management approach is specifically designed to understand the complexities inherent in ecosystem processes and structures and has particularly been recognized for its usefulness in addressing the impacts of climate change on wildlife species (Gardner 2013). The absence of explicit statutory authority and regulatory standards has brought challenges to the development, implementation, and review of adaptive management (Gardner 2013).
To illustrate her point, Gardner (2013) dove into the recent decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Greater Yellowstone Coalition v. Servheen. She explained the Ninth Circuit rejected an adaptive management plan for removal of a population of grizzly bears from the ESA’s list of threatened species because the verdict determined the effects of climate change on the population were not sufficiently addressed in the plan (Gardner 2013). She emphasized that the case demonstrated challenges agencies and courts have in reviewing adaptive management plans that lack regulatory authority, statutory authority, and funds (Gardner 2013). From there, Gardner communicated a convincing argument for the advancement of the ESA. She introduced the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy that was built under the leadership of the Council for Environmental Quality (Gardner 2013). The author conveyed the strategy tackles several of the issues that have kept agencies from getting judicial approval of adaptive management plans (Gardner 2013).
I agree with the adaptive management approach to wildlife management as it is essentially learning-based management of natural resources (Department of Interior 2012). That said, it is a great way to advance the ESA in the face of global warming, particularly because it highly values diligent monitoring to gain insight and make adjustments. However, I disagree with Gardner’s lack of mentioning collaboration amongst various stakeholders being necessary throughout the adaptive management process.
Goble et al. acknowledged that global warming has resulted in a variety of conservation- reliant species because threats to the wildlife’s survival cannot be eliminated, but only managed (2012). Out of all the species listed under the ESA with recovery plans, 84% of the species are conservation-reliant because their recovered status can be maintained only through a variety of species-specific actions. While the authors promoted the ESA’s strength in theory as a direct response to the problem, they ultimately highlighted its insufficiency due to ESA regulation not accounting for species that have met their biologic recovery goals but often require continuing, species-specific management. I agree with the authors decision to put intense focus into the shortcoming. The authors are aligned with Policy Specialism as they noted it is important to concentrate on the ESA’s policy subjects (Czech and Krausman 2001).
Further, they emphasized the point along a gradient in which a species becomes conservation reliant is determined by the need for continual, species-specific intervention rather than the type of intervention. In doing so, they support the ESA’s potential for advancement as they emphasized the need for post-delisting intervention is determined by the threats species face as a consequence of climate change. At the same time, the authors declared that, insofar as satisfactory assurances can be provided to illustrate that successful threat management can continue, they promote the ESA in terms of it still delisting or keeping conservation-reliant species off the endangered species list (Goble et al. 2012). From there, the chances of survival can increase because unlisted species offer more opportunities for a wider array of federal, state, tribal and private interests to contribute to conservation (Goble et al. 2012). They essentially argue for the ESA to conduct management actions on the front end and other conservation actors to provide support on the back end. I agree with the authors, considering, due to the challenges presented by global warming, advancement of the ESA through must entail collaboration with various stakeholders.
The articles revealed, in order to enhance the ESA, it is useful to promote its strengths and also seize opportunities for growth through changing the policy. While Robbins valued the ESA’s original intent in terms of foreseeing the drastic impact of anthropological effects on climate change, she also emphasized the need to actually implement active management into the policy through re-wording the ESA. Jachowski et al. acknowledged the strength of historical baselines and also determined when baseline-deviating approaches should be implemented. Gardner identified potential for adaptive management to infiltrate the ESA, outlined the roadblocks keeping it from happening, and presented a tangible plan to fix the problem. She truly exemplified the value of humans learning as we go. Finally, Goble et al. recognized the ESA’s not lacking in terms of its intervention type, but rather simply needs support from other conservationists in the midst of global warming. Therefore, each article’s argument illustrated that, in order to tackle climate change, it is important to promote the ESA and refine it together.
CBS News. 2019. “On the brink: The Endangered Species Act.” CBS news. Jul 21, 2019. Video, 7:57.
Czech, Brian and Paul R. Krausman. 2001. The Endangered Species Act: History, Conservation, Biology, and Public Policy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Department of the Interior. 2012. Adaptive Management: The U.S. Department of the Interior Applications Guide. Washington D.C.: US Department of the Interior. Chapters 1-3, 5-6.
Gardner, Emily. 2013. “Adaptive Management in the Face of Climate Change and Endangered Species Protection”. Ecology Law Quarterly. 40(2): 229-270.
Goble, Dale D., John A. Wiens, J. Michael Scott, Timothy D. Male, and John A. Hall. 2012. “Conservation-Reliant Species”. Bioscience. 62(10): 869-873.
Jachowski, David S., Dylan C. Kesler, David A. Steen, Jeffrey R. Walters, Michael Morrison. 2015. “Redefining Baselines in Endangered Species Recovery”. Wildlife Management. 79(1) 3-9.
Robbins, Kalyani. 2015. “The Biodiversity Paradigm Shift: Adapting the Endangered Species Act to Climate Change”. Fordham Environmental Law Review. 27(1): 57-105.