Since 1973, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been the most important U.S. law protecting plants and animals at risk of extinction. The ESA conserves species by regulating activities that may harm species and by facilitating species recovery. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is responsible for conserving the majority of listed species under the ESA, a function that has been impeded by inadequate funding from Congress.

Island fox
Photo courtesy of National Park Service

Several fox species (Urocyon littoralis) of the Channel Islands were recovered and delisted in 2016. Success stories such as these highlight the importance of properly funding the ESA.

Funding Needs

Species Recovery Has Been Chronically Underfunded

Congress has provided only a small fraction of the funds needed for recovery. Data from Gerber (2016) shown here illustrate this shortchanging. From 1980 to 2014, the vast majority of listed species with recovery plans were underfunded - receiving less than 90% of the amount needed for recovery.

Source: Gerber, LR (2016). PNAS 113(13): 3563-3566

State Spending

Most Spending for ESA Activities Comes From Federal Agencies

On average, states spend 26% as much as FWS, and 4% as much as other federal agencies. This pattern has persisted over time. The amount states spend is highly relevant to current discussions about their role in implementing the ESA.

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Source: FWS Expenditure Reports