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The Endangered Species Act is one of the most effective, and arguably the best known, environmental laws in the United States. It has been in place since President Nixon signed it into law in 1973, and it enjoys broad support among the American public.
In a 2016 report, the American Bird Conservancy found that recovery success for listed bird species was at 70 percent nationwide — 78 percent for mainland birds and 52 percent for Hawaiian species. Some have recovered enough to have been delisted while others have bounced back but have yet to meet recovery goals.
Despite the public support and decent track record, Congress has been trying to weaken the law for years, and the Trump administration recently joined in by proposing fundamental changes to the way the ESA is implemented.
Audubon, the American Bird Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, and other conservation groups are pushing back. To add your voice, visit their websites to learn how. And if you need a bit of inspiration — and examples of birds that have benefited from being listed under the ESA — flip through the following slideshow. The photos all come from talented photographers who’ve added their images to our online galleries. — Matt Mendenhall
In May 1990, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that this handsome songbird was being listed as endangered under an emergency rule. "Ongoing and imminent habitat destruction has been identified, and some of the best Golden-cheeked Warbler habitat has already been lost," the agency wrote.
The most recent population estimate — 21,000 birds — was published in 2004, but in 2012, experts said, "There is no reliable current estimate." The species breeds only in the Edwards Plateau of central Texas and winters in Mexico and Central America. "Habitat restoration and cowbird control have increased some populations, particularly at Fort Hood, but habitat is still under threat elsewhere," the American Bird Conservancy notes.
In 2017, Audubon reported that developers in Texas were trying to get the warbler delisted.Lora Render photographed the bird above at Frederich Wilderness Park in San Antonio.