The government is us; we are the government, you and I. -Theodore Roosevelt

Endangered Species Act


In 2023, the Endangered Species Act turns 50. Regaled by some, reviled by others, the ESA is one of the cornerstone pieces of environmental legislation that was enacted in a busy decade in Congress. There have been many ESA successes—recovery of species like the bald eagle and peregrine falcon, regulation changes that have improved the ability to work with private landowners and industry partners, and more—but there have also been claims of government overreach as well as extended litigation. 

With a half century of experience under our belts, one would think that there would be broadly supported proposals for legislative improvement of the ESA. However, even though numerous attempts have been made, the most recent amendments to the Act were made over 30 years ago. Proposals to expand or restrict its authority have been vehemently opposed by organizations firmly entrenched on the far ends of the philosophical spectrum. Yet, the low percentage of recovery achieved under the current implementation of the Act is a strong indication that improvements are needed. 

The Boone and Crockett Club supports the fundamental concept and intent of the ESA to conserve endangered and threatened species. However, there seems to be a reluctance to acknowledge that we can do better (especially by organizations that could lose the financial incentives to sue the Act now provides). Modernizing the ESA’s outdated provisions to incentivize active, adaptive approaches to the challenges wildlife and people face today should be something that all who support wildlife conservation can get behind. 

One aspect that has been increasingly successful in recent years are the many examples of voluntary, incentive-based habitat restoration that benefit at-risk species. This approach presents an opportunity to solve many problems associated with the extinction of species in a manner that will maintain a strong economy and respect private property rights. As has been proven with other wildlife laws, private landowners can achieve strong on-the ground results for wildlife if they are given a voice and the incentives to do so.

Species conservation is as important now as it was 50 years ago when the Endangered Species Act was first signed into law. Boone and Crockett Club Member Lowell Baier has taken the lead on researching and writing about the history, implementation, and future of this law. Over the course of the year, the Club will be compiling stories that will help provide background and share ESA success stories. Throughout our more than 135-year history, the Club and our members have never failed to rise to the challenges facing our wildlife and wild places. Improving species and habitat conservation through effective public policy will continue to be a priority.


Support Conservation

Support Hunting

Support Conservation

Support Education

"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt