Mr. President, tomorrow, on the sixth annual Endangered Species Day, we as a nation have a two-fold opportunity. First, we have the chance to celebrate the successful recovery of a remarkable number of plant and animal species worldwide. Second, we have the opportunity to pause in acknowledgement of the hard work that still lies ahead of us on behalf of the nearly two thousand species that are endangered or threatened today.
Since its enactment in 1973, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has helped to recover such iconic species as the gray whale, the Peregrine Falcon, and the bald eagle. In 1967, the bald eagle, one of our nation’s most recognizable symbols, was in danger from environmental contaminants, human intrusion, and other risk factors, and was listed for protection under the ESA. Through its careful, science-based approach, ESA management ultimately resulted in the successful recovery of bald eagle populations across the country. The bald eagle was delisted in 2007 and is now thriving. In the state of Maryland, the Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge in Maryland is home to a healthy, flourishing bald eagle population. More recently the gray wolf, which was completely extirpated from our Northern Rockies states, is now recovering thanks to the careful protective management of the Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act.
The ESA provides resources and structure that are critical to our ability to improve the outcomes for threatened and endangered species. Since becoming law thirty-eight years ago, with overwhelming support in the House of Representatives and unanimous support in the Senate, the ESA has been one of our nation’s most successful environmental statutes. The ESA not only improves outcomes for endangered and threatened species, it also improves local and regional economies. According to a 2006 Fish and Wildlife Service survey, wildlife-related recreation – meaning hunting, fishing and wildlife watching – generated more than $122 billion in revenues in 2006. In my home state of Maryland, wildlife watching generated over $1 billion in revenues in 2006, according to the same survey. This wildlife-related spending supports hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The Endangered Species Act, with its proven record of success in restoring species to health, remains a critically important tool in the protection of our natural environment. At this moment, nearly two-thousand animal and plant species are endangered or threatened worldwide – the protections of the ESA are therefore as important as ever. This Endangered Species Day, even as we celebrate the successes of our nation’s conservation efforts, let us also remember and pledge to protect the robust, science-based legislation that made those successes possible.