Arguably the most notable success of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is that listed species improve in status through time. More species are downlisted than the converse; more species transition from stable to improving status than the converse. Although some listed species have gone extinct, this number is smaller than expected. Given modest recovery funding, the fraction of listed species responding positively is remarkable. Several factors have been linked to improving species status including recovery expenditures, critical habitat listing, and time spent under protection. The inability of government to fully empower the agencies to implement the law has been the most notable failure of the ESA. Listing of species has not matched need, recovery expenditures do not match need or agency-set priorities, and critical habitat determinations have lagged. Alternative protection strategies to listing may be having a positive effect, but are difficult to assess because of sparse data.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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