Why the Endangered Species Act Is Broken, and How to Fix It

On the landmark species-saving law’s 40th anniversary, environmental historian Peter Alagona explains why it doesn’t quite work, and offers a path toward recovery

A group of critically endangered California condors near Zion National Park, Utah. (© Yva Momatiuk & John Eastcott / Minden Pictures/Corbis)

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The final thing is this issue of adaptive management. There are parts of the ESA where you could improve on the adaptive management portions without violating ESA procedures. For example, there’s an “experimental population” clause in the ESA that says you can dedicate a population experimental. If you do that, it should be a population that if it tanks, it won’t kill the species, but if you have an idea that a certain set of management strategies might work, you should have the flexibility to try new things without the hammer coming down in the form of the federal court.

To let that happen, we’d have to be ready and prepared for more failure, right?

But failure can be a success if you learn something from it—as long as safeguards are in place so those conducting such experiments are not going to wipe out a species in an experiment.

Matt Kettmann is the senior editor of The Santa Barbara Independent, where he has covered endangered species issues for more than a dozen years.


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