The "Modernized" Endangered Species Act Would Set Us Back Decades

The "Modernized" Endangered Species Act Would Set Us Back Decades

There is Nothing Modern about the “Modernized Endangered Species Act.”

Federal lawmakers are set to consider a “Modernized Endangered Species Act” that will ultimately serve to transfer the authority of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to local governments and private interests. Essentially, if a local jurisdiction or private company views a protection that falls under the ESA as a hindrance to development, they would be significantly empowered to sidestep science and overturn the protection at the local level. Far from a modernization, the set of changes being proposed to this longstanding piece of legislation that serves as both our best defense against extinction as well as critical protection of valuable biodiversity would set us back decades – literally. The ESA has been around for more than 40 years, and scientists estimate that if it were not for the ESA, Americans would have lost at least 227 species of plants and animals since the act was passed in 1973.[i]

Experts worldwide agree that we are in the midst of a mass extinction of plant and animal species, driven largely by human activity. Over 1,300 species are listed as endangered or threatened in the United States alone. Now more than ever, we should be working to strengthen the ESA, the world’s gold standard for protecting vulnerable species, rather than diminishing it. Lawmakers behind the “modernization” proposal claim that the ESA “is not working,”[ii]but we know it is. The ESA has successfully saved more than 99% of species listed, and statistical analysis shows that listing significantly improves a species’ likelihood of recovery.[iii]The list of species the Act has saved includes the bald eagle, the manatee, the humpback whale, the California condor, the Florida manatee, and the black-footed ferret, to name just a few. As a leader in science-based economics, Earth Economics highlights the value of critical habitat, biodiversity, and healthy ecosystems in all of our work. And numerous studies have demonstrated that Americans place economic value on species preservation that far exceeds the cost of the ESA program. A few are highlighted below, including one that Earth Economics is currently working on. 

BALD EAGLES

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When bald eagles were listed as an endangered species, there were fewer than 1,000 living in the U.S. Through habitat protection and pesticide regulation, their numbers increased exponentially, and these birds were eventually delisted in the early 2000s. Bald eagles are highly valued by US households. Multiple studies have found that, on average, American households are willing to pay between $27[iv]and $58[v]per year (adjusted for inflation to 2018 dollars) to preserve bald eagles from extinction. Extended across all households, the nation is willing to spend more than $1.5 billion dollars a year to preserve bald eagles from extinction. In 1993, the year this survey was conducted, state and federal governments spent just $200 million on the entire endangered species program, protecting not just the bald eagle, but hundreds of other endangered species. [vi]

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NORTHERN GRAY WOLF

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Gray wolves were extinct in the wild in the continental United States following large scale extermination efforts in the 1930s.[vii]Gray wolves were reintroduced in the wild under protection of the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s. Wolf populations were introduced in the Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes region.[viii]Although wolf reintroduction has been politically contentious, a significant majority of Americans support reintroduction of the species in the U.S.[ix]A survey of residents in Minnesota found that local value of gray wolf reintroduction far exceeded program costs to maintain the species. Extrapolated statewide, Minnesota residents were willing to pay more than $27 million for the management and protection of gray wolves in the area.[x]Total costs of the management program – including costs to compensate ranchers for livestock losses - were less than $800,000 annually.[xi]

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Southern Resident Killer Whales

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Southern esident killer whales (SRKWs) were listed as an endangered species in 2005. SRKW populations have not recovered since their ESA listing, and populations continue to decline. This continued loss is ascribed to the drastic decline of their main food source - chinook salmon,[xii]which are currently at record lows in the wild.[xiii]The fragile SRKW population also suffers from disturbance by commercial and recreational vessels and chemical pollutants.[xiv]Earth Economics is currently partnering with the SeaDoc Society to estimate the economic value of this iconic species in Puget Sound. In addition, Governor Inslee of Washington State has convened a Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery Task Force in response to the dire situation of this beloved species, and citizens and organizations around Western Washington are working together to try to save them, proving yet again that Americans place a high value on the protection of native wildlife. 

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The ESA Protects Habitat, Biodiversity, and American Values.

Recreationists, hunters, anglers, wildlife lovers young and old, and those who may never even set foot in the wild all place enormous value on the diversity of wild animals across the United States. Beyond their economic values, iconic animals like those described above are a core part of our identity and culture as Americans. They tie us to the land we love and provide an irreplaceable sense of place, history, and national pride. The ability to pass these things on to future generations of Americans is truly priceless, and the ESA is our best bet for doing just that. The ESA isn’t just good science, it’s good economics, proving time and again to be worth far more than we pay for it.


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RESOURCES

  • [i]“The Endangered Species Act: A Wild Success” (n.d.) Center for Biological Diversity. Retrieved from: https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/esa_wild_success/
  • [ii]Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), quoted March 11, 2017 in the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/animalia/wp/2017/03/11/eight-animals-saved-from-extinction-by-the-endangered-species-act/?utm_term=.6bfba45f6669
  • [iii]Martin F. J. Taylor, Kieran F. Suckling, Jeffrey J. Rachlinski; The Effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act: A Quantitative Analysis, BioScience, Volume 55, Issue 4, 1 April 2005, Pages 360–367, https://doi.org/10.1641/0006-3568(2005)055[0360:TEOTES]2.0.CO;2
  • [iv]Nunes, P. A., & van den Bergh, J. C. (2001). Economic valuation of biodiversity: sense or nonsense?. Ecological economics, 39(2), 203-222
  • [v]Loomis, J., White, D. (1996) Benefits of rare and endangered species: summary and meta-analysis. Ecological Economics 18: 197-206
  • [vi]“Three-Year Summary of Federal and State Endangered and Threatened Species Expenditures” (2000) US Fish and Wildlife Services
  • [vii]“Gray Wolf Biologue” (n.d) US Fish and Wildlife Services. Retrieved from: https://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/aboutwolves/biologue.htm
  • [viii]Ibid
  • [ix]Williams, C. K., Ericsson, G., & Heberlein, T. A. (2002). A quantitative summary of attitudes toward wolves and their reintroduction (1972-2000). Wildlife Society Bulletin, 575-584.
  • [x]Chambers, C. M., & Whitehead, J. C. (2003). A contingent valuation estimate of the benefits of wolves in Minnesota. Environmental and Resource Economics, 26(2), 249-267.
  • [xi]Ibid
  • [xii]“Review of the Effectiveness of Recovery Measures for Southern Resident Killer Whales” (n.d) Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Retrieved from: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/species-especes/publications/mammals-mammiferes/whalereview-revuebaleine/review-revue/killerwhale-epaulard/index-eng.html
  • [xiii]“Fisheries and Aquaculture Department Statistics." (n.d) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
  • [xiv]“Review of the Effectiveness of Recovery Measures for Southern Resident Killer Whales” (n.d) Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Retrieved from: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/species-especes/publications/mammals-mammiferes/whalereview-revuebaleine/review-revue/killerwhale-epaulard/index-eng.html

A Trillion-Dollar Forest in the Region of Boom

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A Trillion-Dollar Forest in the Region of Boom

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The Emerald Corridor comprises one of the fastest-growing regions in the nation. With a regional economy of $347 billion and a population of 4.5 million people and counting, the Emerald Corridor is an important economy on the rise. In our recent report for the Wilderness Society - Gem of the Emerald Corridor: Nature’s Value in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest - we took a look at how nature is driving this growth, and the results are pretty eye-opening. If we view the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (MBSNF) as a natural asset that will provide valuable services, products, and jobs to our regional economy for at least 100 years (as we should...), its total asset value is estimated to be $1 trillion. Trillion. With a T.

 The MBSNF (green) provides enormous value up and down the Emerald Corridor (white). 

The MBSNF (green) provides enormous value up and down the Emerald Corridor (white). 

If you’ve been following Earth Economics for any amount of time, you already know that nature and the economy are not separate. Nature drives our economy, and the booming Emerald Corridor owes much of its incredible success to the enormous wealth of natural resources that surround it. The forest provides nearly $30 billion dollars in ecosystem services to surrounding communities every year. It filters the water we drink, purifies the air we breathe, and provides space for recreation that improves health and fuels local economies through year-round spending and jobs. For every dollar invested in its management, the forest returns $3,000 in critical ecosystem services like these every single year. You don’t need to be an economist to recognize that a 3,000% annual ROI is a REALLY good one.

 

>>>  3000% ANNUAL ROI  <<<

 

Over the next week, we’ll be telling the story of the value of the MBSNF. This is not just a story about nature - it’s a story about communities. The forest connects urban and rural communities up and down the corridor through a shared interest in our precious natural resources and beloved landscapes. It brings Amazon dollars to communities like Glacier, Verlot, and Easton, as urban dwellers spend time and money in and around the forest. It provides much-needed space for recreation and exercise, as some 2 million visitors burn more than 3 billion calories in the forest each year. And in turn, community members volunteer more than 60,000 hours of their time each year working to give something back for all that we receive.

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As Jon Hoekstra, Executive Director of Mountains to Sound Greenway put it in a press conference on Tuesday, “The Gem of the Emerald Corridor report provides economic data that validates what we are reminded of every time we venture to the forest and return the better for it.” At Earth Economics, we know we can’t quantify the way the forest makes us feel, or the memories we create there, or the fact that it is truly part of our local identity. These things are surely priceless. But, if we want our leaders to invest in nature, we need to give them the tools that make its benefits clear, using the language of budgets, costs, and return on investment. This report aims to do just that, because ultimately, any investment in nature is an investment in communities.

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Summer is Coming, and So Are Our Interns!

Summer is Coming, and So Are Our Interns!

Longer days and sunny skies mean it’s not only time for outdoor adventures but also for Earth Economics’ summer internship program! This summer we are fortunate to have interns supporting a range of projects, from assessing expenditures of whale watchers to mapping barriers along salmon streams to researching investments in community health.

Carbon-Free Commuting in the Month of May

Carbon-Free Commuting in the Month of May

It’s National Bike Month, and our Earth Economics team is participating in the state-wide Bike Everywhere Challenge - saving carbon and having a little more fun on our commutes.

      As a leader in ecological economics, Earth Economics has been providing innovative analysis and recommendations to governments and organizations across the globe since 1998. We make the business case for nature-based solutions that enable urban and rural communities to be more resilient, healthy, and equitable. We are committed to environmental justice and to empowering the community leaders of today and tomorrow. With the help of generous people like you, we will invest in the resources needed to educate and train our staff on principles and best practices for effectively incorporating equity in our work, and we will offer valuable career pathways to underrepresented youth in the fields of economics and the environment. With your help, we will invest in solutions that are beneficial for ALL.&nbsp;&nbsp;  Join us as we participate in the annual GIVEBIG event, the Puget Sound region's largest day of giving.&nbsp;  Click here &nbsp; to schedule* your donation today through May 9, or GIVEBIG on May 10.  *All scheduled donations will be processed on May 10.   Together we can invest in nature-based solutions for all.

Together we can invest in nature-based solutions for all. #GIVEBIG for all.

How We Celebrated Earth Day Weekend

How We Celebrated Earth Day Weekend

For Earth Day weekend, Earth Economics teams joined EarthCorps in their efforts to restore a Tacoma salt marsh and the Green-Duwamish river.

The value of Southern Resident Killer Whales

The value of Southern Resident Killer Whales

Earth Economics is preparing a study, funded by the SeaDoc Society, to identify the recreation and tourism values attached to Southern Resident Killer Whales, iconic and endangered residents of the Pacific Northwest. 

The Value of an EPA Superfund Cleanup

The Value of an EPA Superfund Cleanup

What’s the value of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund cleanup? As one case study, we examined the Ruston Superfund site – where for nearly one hundred years a copper smelter emitted a toxic plume of heavy metals from Everett to Olympia.

Highlights from 2017

Highlights from 2017

This year flew by, and we're already looking ahead to another year of building resilient communities and healthy ecosystems. But we wanted to take a moment to mention a few of our proudest accomplishments from 2017:

My summer internship experience

My summer internship experience

Earth Economics has long managed a robust internship program that provides training and practical experience to undergraduate and post-doc students. Internship experiences have motivated graduate degrees, new career focuses and passions, and long term positions with Earth Economics. The following post was written by Alia Kabir, a 2017 Summer Intern and a current Senior at the University of Puget Sound, in Tacoma, WA.

New Staff Members

New Staff Members

We recently added three new staff members to our team – welcome Matt Van Deren, Jordan Wildish, and Marvin Termin!

2016 Annual Report

2016 Annual Report

We recently published an online version of our 2016 Annual Report. Below is an excerpt, the "Letter from Our Leaders," which opens the report. The letter summarizes Earth Economics' recent accomplishments and lays out a bright vision for the future.    

Cities Unite to Strengthen Global Resilience

Cities Unite to Strengthen Global Resilience

In this time of dysfunctional national and international governance, cities have a unique opportunity to fill a void in leadership. Can a group of U.S. and world cities model the kinds of networked, scalable solutions we need to create a more resilient world? One big-thinking international project is betting that cities can and will.

How Cities Need Forests

How Cities Need Forests

It's easy to take national forests for granted. Many city-dwellers think about them only on weekend excursions – when hiking, biking, or skiing. Besides acting as our playgrounds, what else do national forests do for us? Earth Economics is helping to shed light on the subject by partnering with The Wilderness Society for an economic analysis of the many benefits provided by Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

The Immense Natural Capital Value of the Columbia River Basin

The Immense Natural Capital Value of the Columbia River Basin

The Columbia River Basin is a vast, abundant watershed and the foundation for communities, fish and wildlife, and economic activity. Earth Economics has just released a new report that demonstrates the immense value of the Columbia River Basin’s natural capital - $198 billion in value annually.

Naturally Stronger Report Makes Powerful Case for Green Infrastructure

Naturally Stronger Report Makes Powerful Case for Green Infrastructure

Our nation's water infrastructure needs work. Yet, the question remains - what kind of investments should we make? A recent American Rivers report written in collaboration with Earth Economics makes a compelling case for investing in green infrastructure, or infrastructure that supports natural biological systems. Green infrastructure both improves economies and delivers diverse social benefits.

Bears Ears and the Value of Public Lands

Bears Ears and the Value of Public Lands

On April 26, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order requiring a governmental review of all national monument designations made since 1996. First up for review is Bears Ears National Monument -- over a million acres of mesas, canyons, shrublands, forests, and Native American archaeological sites in Southeastern Utah. We took a quick look at its natural capital value and found its worth to be over $1 billion in ecosystem services benefits.