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ESA Caucus Co-Chairs Introduce Resolution Commemorating 50 Years of the Endangered Species Act

Today, the Co-Chairs of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Caucus Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) introduced a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Endangered Species Act. The resolution emphasizes the need to prioritize conservation efforts to address the biodiversity crisis impacting plants and wildlife worldwide and is endorsed by numerous organizations including the Endangered Species Coalition, World Wildlife Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Animal Welfare Institute, Earthjustice, and Oceana.

The Endangered Species Act passed by a vote of 355-4 in the House of Representatives and 92-0 in the Senate and was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973. Since its enactment, the law has played a strong role in helping protect and recover thousands of species of plants and animals that are threatened or endangered.

“As our planet continues to experience a biodiversity crisis of epic proportions, The Endangered Species Act and its success in protecting species from disappearing forever has never been more important,” said Rep. Don Beyer. “Through five decades, this vital legislation’s enduring impact can be measured through countless stories of renewal and resurgence – including that of our country’s symbol, the bald eagle, which continues to fly in the sky today. As we reflect on this 50-year milestone, I remain committed to championing policies that sustain and strengthen the ESA and ensure that the next 50 years bring even greater successes in the protection of our planet's diverse wildlife.”

“The Endangered Species Act is more important now than ever, especially as we face the dual threats of a worsening climate crisis and mass extinction. From protecting critical habitats to creating recovery plans, the landmark law has facilitated the recovery of species like the humpback whale and bald eagle, while also protecting iconic species like grizzly bears, sea turtles and jaguars.,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva. “The ESA’s 50th year is a significant milestone to celebrate, but it is also a time to reinvigorate our defense of ESA protections against polluter profit-driven threats. We stand ready to continue the fight for species and their habitats over the next 50 years and beyond.”

“The Endangered Species Act has been our most successful tool to protect America’s imperiled wildlife, preventing the extinction of 99 percent of the species it covers, including beloved animals like the bald eagle, grizzly bear, and Florida manatee,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell. “But 50 years later, there are people who want to undermine these cornerstone protections and return us to the times when we were destroying our natural treasures. We must always remain vigilant to defend and expand the protections of the Endangered Species Act, and we can never take our environmental safeguards for granted.”

“Thank you, Representatives Beyer, Grijalva, and Dingell for introducing the resolution to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act and for your continued leadership in protecting endangered species. For 50 years, the Endangered Species Act has been one of our most beloved and popular environmental laws, with support from 4 out of 5 Americans. Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, humpback whales swim along our coasts, wolves once again howl in Yellowstone National Park, and bald eagles soar over the Potomac River,” said Susan Holmes, Executive Director at the Endangered Species Coalition. “As we confront today’s biodiversity crisis, it is critical that we renew our commitment to this landmark law and keep it strong and fully funded to protect and recover wildlife for the next fifty years.” 

"As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, we are reminded of the vital role this legislation plays in conservation, both in the U.S. and around the world,” said Ginette Hemley, Senior Vice President of Wildlife Conservation at World Wildlife Fund. “This Act is not just a policy; it is a promise – a promise to future generations that the biodiversity and ecological richness of our planet will be preserved. It has been our nation's most effective law to protect at-risk wildlife from extinction. WWF looks forward to working with Members of Congress to build upon the ESA’s success, so that we can continue protecting endangered and threatened species for decades more to come.”

“The Endangered Species Act remains the gold standard for wildlife conservation around the world, and it has saved from extinction 99% of the species in its care,” said Brett Hartl, Government Affairs Director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Representatives Beyer, Grijalva, and Dingell’s resolution recognizes the historic importance of this law, and we hope it passes with the same nearly unanimous support as the Act did in 1973 when it was signed into law by President Nixon.”

“Conceived in bipartisanship, and with the unwavering support of the American public for the last 50 years, the Endangered Species Act has saved hundreds of species from being lost forever and kept ecosystems whole and functioning for the benefit of us all,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “As we look to the next 50 years, and the added pressures the combined biodiversity and climate crises will wreak on our nation’s wildlife, the time to recommit to upholding the Act and to ensuring its life-saving mission is fully funded is now. Nature needs us and we must respond.”

“At a time of unprecedented biodiversity loss and habitat destruction, the Endangered Species Act is more vital than ever to protect vulnerable species from extinction,” said Susan Millward, Executive Director and CEO of the Animal Welfare Institute. “The 50th anniversary of the ESA is an important moment to reflect on the species that have been saved thanks to this law, and to ensure that it remains strongly enforced for many years to come. Thank you to Representatives Beyer, Grijalva, and Dingell for introducing a resolution to mark this significant milestone.”

“The text of this resolution says it all: Today's biodiversity crisis means nearly half of all U.S. ecosystems are at risk of range-wide collapse, while a million plant and animal species worldwide face extinction in coming decades,” said Addie Haughey, Legislative Director at Earthjustice. “The Endangered Species Act is the single most effective tool this nation has for protecting the imperiled web of life that sustains us all, and we are pleased to join in commemorating the 50th anniversary of this critical environmental law that has already saved so many species.”

“For fifty years, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has provided a safety net to help species survive and recover,” said Oceana Senior Director of Federal Policy Lara Levison. “With climate change and habitat loss, we are facing an extinction crisis both on land and in the oceans, and we need the ESA now more than ever. In particular, the North Atlantic right whale, with only about 356 individuals left, is on the brink of extinction. The protections of a bedrock conservation law like the ESA are essential to the survival of this whale and the rest of the endangered and threatened species on land and in the oceans. We thank Representatives Beyer, Grijalva, and Dingell for this resolution celebrating and defending the ESA in its 50th year.”

The full text of the resolution is available here.