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Strength in Numbers: Setting Quantitative Criteria for Listing Species Under the Endangered Species Act

37 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2009 Last revised: 30 Oct 2012

Kalyani Robbins

Florida International University (FIU) - College of Law

Date Written: October 28, 2012


My primary thesis is that the Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service need to set quantitative criteria for listing species under the Endangered Species Act in order to promote consistency, transparency, and efficiency. I suggest a model for doing so, the use of which would create an opportunity to move beyond the political quagmire surrounding the selection of vulnerable species for preservation. Like my other environmental scholarship, the article merges scientific research in the field of conservation biology with legal analysis. With the status quo, listing decisions often turn on wildly different factors, including some not contemplated by the Act. While the Act on its face treats all species equally, regardless of popularity with humans, in reality these decisions can be highly politicized. Although this process is necessarily an ad hoc one, some degree of consistency can be achieved by setting certain thresholds and methods. Taking into account the criteria used in the international community for the IUCN Red List, combined with the relevant scientific literature on population viability analysis, I propose a set of thresholds that function according to the varying life cycles of different species. I also address the arguments that have been used to defend the present highly subjective process.

Keywords: endangered species, ESA, biodiversity, wildlife, endangered species act, iucn

Suggested Citation

Robbins, Kalyani, Strength in Numbers: Setting Quantitative Criteria for Listing Species Under the Endangered Species Act (October 28, 2012). UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy, Vol. 27, No. 1, 2009; U of Akron Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-08. Available at SSRN:

Kalyani Robbins (Contact Author)

Florida International University (FIU) - College of Law ( email )

11200 SW 8th Street
RDB Hall 1097
Miami, FL 33199
United States

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