Preventing the Extinction of Candidate Species: The Lesser Prairie-Chicken in New Mexico
58 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2011
Date Written: May 1, 2009
The lesser prairie-chicken in New Mexico provides a vehicle for exploring the tangled web of biology, law, and policy that must be navigated to understand and address the conservation needs of imperiled species. Congress enacted the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to accomplish the ambitious purpose of preventing the extinction of species through a combination of a federal listing program and state and local conservation plans made possible through federal funding and incentives. Congress, however, may have underestimated the challenges presented by species conservation, including the complex ecological needs of unique species and the difficulties of conservation across land ownership boundaries. Furthermore, over time, the agencies tasked with the administration of the ESA have gradually stopped adding species to the list of threatened or endangered species, instead over-utilizing an exception allowing agencies to classify species as warranted for listing but precluded by other higher priorities.
As implementation of the ESA has faltered, human pressures on species have increased, including climate change and economic, energy, and agricultural pressures. Although the ESA is not being funded or administered as originally intended, imperiled species in fact do reap some benefits from the ESA through the agency’s promotion of stakeholder-based collaborative conservation initiatives. The story of the lesser prairie-chicken in New Mexico and the partial success of the Collaborative Conservation Strategy to benefit the species illustrate that proper implementation and funding of the ESA’s listing program combined with state and local collaborative conservation efforts, may be an effective strategy for preventing the extinction of imperiled species.
Keywords: Endangered Species Act, Candidate Species, Conservation
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