America has lasted for thousands of years, and the native species remained untouched except for use by the native peoples. However, once colonists arrived, they started to affect and damage the indigenous species and have been for the last 400 years. In the early 1970s, a realization occurred that would change America’s relationship with the environment forever.
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In 1973, the United States’ solution was to issue the Endangered Species Act in order to save the various native species going extinct and that were characterized to have esthetic, ecological, educational, recreational, and scientific value to our Nation and its people (Endangered Species Act Regulations, 2018). Although there are debates on the Endangered Species Act’s protections concerning land and resources, its successes have been shown in saving hundreds of species and habitats from extinction and recover.
Even before the obsession of protecting the environment in the United States, there were several occasions where species protection was given special attention (Endangered Species Act Timeline, n.d.). Beginning in 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt created the first National Wildlife Refuge in Pelican Island, Florida (Endangered Species Act Timeline, n.d.). The wildlife protected included brown pelicans, wood storks, and other threatened water birds. National Wildlife Refuges continue on today and currently protect over 300 threatened and endangered species (Endangered Species Act Timeline, n.d.). The United States also went international in their protections in 1918 when they created a treaty with Great Britain in support of Canada (Endangered Species Act Timeline, n.d.). This treaty established a system of protections for birds that migrated between the United States and Canada (Endangered Species Act Timeline, n.d.). The treaty was enforced through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918 (Endangered Species Act Timeline, n.d.). Although some wildlife protection occurred before 1960, the real breakthroughs occurred after, especially in the 1960s-1970s.
The ESA was one of many environmental protection statutes passed in the 1960s and 1970s, including the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, Wilderness Act of 1964, Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, Clean Water Act of 1970, and the Wilderness Act of 1964 (Baur & Irvin, 2010). However, the ESA was the most disputed and strict law of them with the purpose of protecting species from extinction and even ushering them into recovery (Baur & Irvin, 2010). The Act was also the strictest environmental protection law in the world (The Endangered Species Act: A Wild Success, n.d.). The ESA was passed following the 1973 conference where 80 countries signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, n.d.). CITES put restrictions on international trade that put wildlife species in danger (U.S.
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