Passed in the early 1970s as one of the first in a wave of environmental policies in the United States, The Endangered Species Act has become the cornerstone of wildlife and nature conservation. The protections that it offers have saved numerous iconic species from extinction including the humpback whale, the bald eagle, the grey wolf, and the Florida manatee. But, there are still over 2300 species of both plants and animals currently listed as threatened or endangered. These species deserve protection and conservation efforts, but at what cost?
In the current budget for the Fiscal Year 2019, endangered species conservation is allocated $252 million for five programs conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Services. However, on February 26, 2019, several groups, including the Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, authored a letter urging the House of Representatives to increase that budget to $486 million, which would provide a minimum of $50,000 to the recovery efforts of each listed species per year, the ideal allocation of the funds. According to the letter, hundreds of those species receive less than $1000 per year, and some receive none. This increase in funding will allow the US Fish and Wildlife Service to properly execute conservation efforts of endangered species. Not only do these species have inherent value, but they also provide for and benefit human populations. However, without ample funding, many of these species are doomed.
It costs money to save endangered species. Research must be funded, employees must be paid, technology must be developed. For instance, the red wolf, one of the most critically endangered species in the United States with only 40 creatures left in the wild, received $1,248,387 of funding from the USFWS in the Fiscal Year 2014,. This funding was used to ship captive-bred species to the wildlife refuge in North Carolina, provide tracking collars for the wild wolves, and different strategies used to maintain the population. While the red wolf has had the highest budgetary allocation in the Southeast region, officials still believe it has been inadequate to save the species because of the critical nature of its status. This species is well on its way to extinction unless it is fully supported and maintained, which comes at an economic cost. However, I believe that it is worth it to save the red wolf. So do an overwhelming number of residents in North Carolina, the only state where the red wolf can be found in the wild. Not only is biological diversity important for the ecosystem, but the red wolf also has its own value. It is a keystone species in the ecosystems in which it lives, which means its presence and absence has a large impact on the surrounding area. Without it, other species’ populations could grow too small or too large, which could impact human activities. For example, the red wolf preys on the rabbit. Without the red wolf to maintain the rabbit population, the rabbits could become an unwanted nuisance to humans, eating farmers crops or the neighbor’s pansies.
Red Wolf, an endangered, but important, species
It is estimated that over 60% of the land in the United States is privately owned. Many endangered species exist on and depend on these private lands for habitat necessary for their survival. Protecting these species comes at a cost to private landowners. Some invest their own money into providing the ideal habitat for these species or avoid certain management actions, like clearcutting trees, that would provide them with a greater profit. Other landowners enter into voluntary agreements with the USFWS that restrict the actions that can be done on the property. In order to enact and enforce these regulations and agreements, the USFWS needs employees, lawyers, and biologist, who all must be paid. With greater funding for conservation efforts, private landowners could potentially be reimbursed for the profits they are forsaking which could incentivize more private landowners to participate in voluntary and beneficial agreements.
While there are costs associated with saving endangered species, there are also benefits. By increasing funding for the protection and potential savior of endangered species, not only do creatures with intrinsic value stay in existence, but there can also be positive economic benefits for humans: there are often non-market benefits known as ecosystem services caused by conservation efforts. These services can lower the costs of health effects of pollution, reduce the effects and costs of climate change, and many other benefits. A study performed in 2011 found that ecosystem services would produce over a trillion dollars in economic activity, over 100 billion dollars in tax revenues, and over 9 million jobs. This would be through tourism, recreation activities on the protected lands, health benefits, and more. The proposed increase in funding would allow these benefits to come to fruition. Without the plants and animals that provide these services, the positive effects will not occur. Write your congressmen urging them to work for an increase in funding for the Endangered Species so that species like the red wolf and other endangered species that provide so many benefits can survive for generations to come.
 US Fish and Wildlife Service, “Endangered Species Act overview,” https://www.fws.gov/endangered/laws-policies/
 Darryl Fears, “These creatures faced extinction. The Endangered Species Act saved them,” 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=.52a8d6071758, (March 11, 2017).
 US Fish and Wildlife Service, “Listed Species Summary (Boxscore,” https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp0/reports/box-score-report
 Stephanie Kurose, “Congress urged to fully fund Endangered Species Act with $486 million,” Center for Biological Diversity, https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2019/endangered-species-budget-02-26-2019.php, (February 26, 2019).
 Stephanie Kurose, “Congress urged to fully fund Endangered Species Act with $486 million.”
 All-Creatures.org et al, “Endangered Species Act funding letter,” letter, https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/esa/pdfs/community_ESA_funding_letter.pdf, (February 26, 2019).
 Kelli Bender, “There are only 40 red wolves left in the wild,” People Magazine, https://people.com/pets/40-red-wolves-left-in-the-wild/, (April 25, 2018).
 US Fish and Wildlife Service, “Red wolf allocation,” https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/data/red-wolf-budget-1999-2014.pdf, (2014).
 Wildlife Management Institute, Inc, “A comprehensive review and evaluation of the red wolf (canis rufus) recovery program,” https://www.coastalreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/WMI-Red-Wolf-Review-FINAL-11_14_14.pdf, (October 14, 2014).
 Wildlife Management Institute, Inc, “A comprehensive review and evaluation of the red wolf (canis rufus) recovery program.”
 Haley McKey et al, “Public overwhelmingly supports protecting wild red wolves,” Center for Biological Diversity, https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2017/red-wolf-08-14-2017.php, (August 14, 2017).
 Florida State University, “Habitat tracker- red wolf,” http://tracker.cci.fsu.edu/redwolf/about/what/, (2019).
 US Fish and Wildlife Service, “Red wolf,” https://www.fws.gov/southeast/wildlife/mammals/red-wolf/, (n.d.).
 US Fish and Wildlife Service, “Red wolf.”
 Amos Eno, Willard Dyche, & Laura Mass, “State of the land: A brief inventory of public and private land in the United States,” Resources First Foundation, https://www.landcan.org/pdfs/StateoftheLand.pdf, (n.d.).
 Randy Kautz et al, “How much is enough? Landscape-scale conservation for the Florida Panther,” Biological Conservation, https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/population_and_sustainability/urban_wildlands/pdfs/Kautz_et_al_2006_BiolCons.pdf, (3 February, 2006).
 US Fish and Wildlife Service, “Safe Harbor Agreements,” https://www.fws.gov/endangered/landowners/landowners-faq.html, (n.d.).
 The Biodiversity Information System for Europe, “Ecosystem services,” https://biodiversity.europa.eu/topics/ecosystem-services.
 Justin Worland, “The Endangered Species Act is criticized for its costs. But it generates more than $1 trillion a year,” Time Magazine, http://time.com/5347260/endangered-species-act-reform/, (July 25, 2018).
 Southwick Associates, “The economics associated with outdoor recreation, natural resources conservation and historic preservation in the United States,” https://www.fws.gov/refuges/news/pdfs/TheEconomicValueofOutdoorRecreation.pdf, (October 10, 2011).
 Worland, “The Endangered Species Act is criticized for its costs. But it generates more that $1 trillion a year.”