Delisting Isn’t a Dirty Word

This has been bugging for some time, and since this is Endangered Species Day, I think I’ll get something off my chest. And believe me, I’m not directing this at any particular group, or even species. It just needs addressing.

“Delisting”, as in removing animals from the Endangered Species List, is not a dirty word.

Lately, many, many people and organizations are throwing it around as a pejorative, or sometimes even a profanity.

It’s not.

I certainly hope that endangered species like this Black-footed ferret can be “delisted” someday soon.

Animals are not added to the list to provide sacrosanct and perpetual protection of a particular species. They are added to the ESA list to protect them until they recover to a carefully considered level of self-sustainability, and then they’re removed from the list – AKA “de-listed.”

Every time someone throws the word “delisting”into conversation, certain people turn beet red and steam billows out of their ears. You see them at rallies carrying signs demanding a stop to “delisting.”

Apparently, those who hate the word haven’t paused to consider that delisting is, in fact, the ultimate goal of every Endangered Species Act (ESA) animal story.

That’s right. Every single species of endangered critter placed on that list is put there with the implied hope that it one day can recover to the point that it can be removed from the list.

“The goal of an Endangered Species Act listing is to recover a species to self-sustaining, viable populations that no longer need protection.”(Source: NPS.Gov)

The pertinent part of the 1975 Act is this:

(f)(1) RECOVERY PLANS.—The Secretary shall develop and implement plans (hereinafter in this subsection referred to as “recovery plans”) for the conservation and survival of endangered species and threatened species listed pursuant to this section, unless he finds that such a plan will not promote the conservation of the species. The Secretary, in developing and implementing recovery plans, shall, to the maximum extent practicable…

(B) incorporate in each plan—

(ii) objective, measurable criteria which, when met, would result in a determination, in accordance with the provisions of this section, that the species be removed from the list;

Indeed, there are only a few ways I know of for a species to be removed from the ESA list:

One is extinction – certainly not an outcome any reasonable person wants.

And a species can be removed if it was originally added in error (i.e . new information is discovered or there was a Taxonomic revision.)

The best way to leave the list is for population goals to be met, or hopefully, exceeded. That is formally known as “recovery.” And that’s not just a good thing, it’s the thing everyone is working for – or should be.

In other words, delisting due to recovery is proof positive of a wildlife success story.

I understand that some of us are passionate about our wildlife, but please pick another word to express your displeasure. I like the word “delisting.”

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2 thoughts on “Delisting Isn’t a Dirty Word

  1. Kieth, thanks for a science based notion of what the Endangered Species Act was and is intended to do. Those who use it to promote inaction have as much disrespect for the act as those who lobby for speices that deserve protection not to be added…usually becasue of some economic reasoning. I applaud you for speaking up in this forumn where you are respected for your reasonablity and incredible photography

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