Press Release Mar 13, 2019

Report: Endangered Species Act is a Win-Win for National Parks and Imperiled Species

Amid ongoing political attacks on the Endangered Species Act, a new report explores the mutual and far-reaching benefits of the law to threatened and endangered fish, plants and wildlife as well as national parks. 

WASHINGTON – Amid ongoing political attacks on the Endangered Species Act, (ESA) a new report by National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and Defenders of Wildlife explores the mutual and far-reaching benefits of the law to threatened and endangered fish, plants and wildlife as well as national parks. The report, Win / Win: The Endangered Species Act and Our National Parks underscores the values of the ESA to the National Park System, at a time when some members of Congress and the Trump Administration are proposing to dismantle or severely weaken the bedrock wildlife conservation law. In addition to the report, NPCA and Defenders of Wildlife created a unique and comprehensive database that examined all of our 418 national park sites to find overlapping habitat with threatened and endangered species.

Since 1973, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), signed into law by President Richard Nixon, has effectively protected and restored America’s threatened and endangered species. More than half of the 418 sites in the Park System, including national recreation areas, seashores, lakeshores, monuments, battlefields, and other designations, provide habitat for over 600 threatened and endangered species.

The report details the mutual benefits of the ESA and national parks through case studies ranging from the Shenandoah salamander in its namesake park; desert tortoise in Joshua Tree; and humpback whales in Glacier Bay National Park. It describes four key benefits the ESA provides to communities, national parks, and federally protected fish, plants and wildlife:

  1. Economic benefits to communities including those surrounding Yellowstone and Glacier Bay, from visitors who travel to parks to see current or formerly ESA-protected species including whales, grizzlies and wolves

  2. Funding for species research and conservation, including those for Shenandoah salamanders in Virginia and salmon in Olympic National Park in Washington, that support the Park Service as well as state and federal partners that work to protect the fish, plants and wildlife.

  3. Science-based policies driven by the ESA that help park managers protect endangered and threatened fish, wildlife and plants, including mussels in Big South Fork National Recreation Area and desert tortoise in Mojave National Preserve.

  4. Healthier parks, waterways and communities protected by the legal mandates and state/federal partnerships fostered by the ESA, including for species such as bull trout in Glacier.

“National Parks Conservation Association has worked for 100 years to protect our parks and the stunning plants and wildlife found within, as well as beyond park borders,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association. “Efforts by the Trump Administration and members of Congress to undercut the core values of the ESA threaten America’s conservation heritage and our national parks. To defend the ESA is to ensure that future generations will experience the delight of seeing whales breach in Glacier Bay, Grizzly bear moms and cubs foraging in Yellowstone; or salmon swimming upstream in Olympic.”

“Protecting endangered and threatened species in the National Park System has led to innovative partnerships, healthier ecosystems, enhanced scientific understanding, and the protection and restoration of habitat for imperiled flora and fauna across the country. The Endangered Species Act represents both a commitment to species conservation and an investment in the future of wildlife in America. Congress and this administration should work to fully fund the Endangered Species Act and reject attacks to weaken the law,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. At the same time this report highlights the strengths and synergy of the ESA and the National Park System, President Trump’s nominee to become Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, is soon expected to finalize ESA regulations that would undermine the conservation of endangered and threatened species, weaken critical habitat designations, and ultimately make recovery of endangered animals and plants more costly and difficult. This comes on top of an unprecedented number of legislative attacks on the ESA introduced in the last Congress that would reduce protections for threatened and endangered species across the country, including in national parks.

The overlap of endangered and threatened species and national parks is illustrated in a new, interactive map as well as the comprehensive published by NPCA, with support from Defenders of Wildlife.

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About National Parks Conservation Association: For 100 years, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org/100.