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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
This small shorebird is listed as endangered in the Great Lakes region and as threatened in the Atlantic Coast and Northern Great Plains populations. Its decline began when many bird species were collected and their feathers used as decorations for women's hats, and after World War II, the population suffered as habitat was lost to beachfront development, shoreline stabilization, and human activity. The species received the protection of the Endangered Species Act in 1985.
"Overall, the U.S. population increased by nearly 300 percent since 1985 to an estimated 6,500 birds," according to the American Bird Conservancy. "During that period, the Atlantic Coast population also increased 300 percent thanks to intensive management efforts, including restricted beach access during sensitive nesting periods and predator control. The Great Lakes population increased 390 percent, and the Great Plains population increased by 270 percent. The species also breeds in Canada."Michael Rossacci took the beautiful portrait above at Sandy Point State Reservation in Ipswich, Massachusetts.