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Delisting Endangered Species: An Aspirational Goal, Not a Realistic Expectation

June 2000

Citation: 30 ELR 10434

Issue: 6

Author: Holly Doremus

On March 11, 1967, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) promulgated the first formal list of U.S. endangered species.1 Since then, the protection afforded listed species by federal law has increased dramatically. In light of those expanded protections, one might have expected both the number of protected species and the length of time those species spend on the list to gradually decline. But that has not been the case. Instead, the list has grown explosively over the past 30 years; today it includes more than 1,200 U.S. and 550 foreign species.2

Coincident with the growth of the endangered and threatened species list, the Endangered Species Act (ESA)3 has become increasingly controversial. The Clinton administration took office in 1993 determined to soften that controversy by proving that the ESA is compatible with economic development.4 Since then, under the leadership of Bruce Babbitt, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has undertaken a series of administrative reforms designed to make the ESA easier to live with.5

Professor of Law, University of California, Davis. Thanks to Gordon Anthon, Joel Pagel, and Daniel Rohlf for comments and suggestions, and to David Burnett and Joe Schofield for research assistance.

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