Obama’s mixed impact on endangered species

The administration delisted more species, but ultimately weakened the act itself.

 

During Obama’s presidency, 29 species recovered enough to be taken off the endangered species list, more than under all four presidents before him (George H. W. Bush did not delist any species). And 340 were added, far more than under his predecessor, George W. Bush. But the Endangered Species Act itself has changed during the Obama years, and critics say that despite the impressive numbers, it’s actually become more business-friendly and less effective at protecting wildlife.

The latest change came in October, when a core part of the law, the citizen petitioning process, was changed. Anyone can ask the federal government to consider listing a species, but the new rule requires petitioners to first notify the states in which the species is found. In the past, environmental groups have petitioned for hundreds of species at a time, a useful strategy if many species in an ecosystem faced the same threats. Now, they must file for one at a time.

To explore our interactive graphic, click on an illustration to see more details about that species, or navigate all of the species delisted under the Endangered Species Act from Reagan through Obama. 

The change was meant to improve the petitions’ quality, says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which processes them. But it also could mean that more petitions will be filed — and that in turn could strain the budget of both Fish and Wildlife and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which handles marine species.

Both agencies frequently miss deadlines, triggering lawsuits. In an attempt to break that cycle, in September they created a seven-year work plan to prioritize species. Yet that doesn’t address a chronic lack of funding, and could create a backlog of lower-priority species. Brett Hartl, director of endangered species policy for the Center for Biological Diversity, says, “You have to hope that the species you put at the back of the list isn’t going to go extinct while it’s waiting.”

Anna V. Smith is an editorial intern at High Country News. She tweets

High Country News Classifieds
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • COMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Position Title: Communications Associate Director Location: Flexible within the Western U.S., Durango, CO preferred Position reports to: Senior Communications Director The Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF)...
  • HISTORIC HOTEL & CAFE
    For Sale, 600k, Centennial Wyoming, 6 suites plus 2 bed, 2 bath apartment. www.themountainviewhotel.com Make this your home or buy a turn key hotel [email protected]
  • MAJOR GIFTS OFFICER
    High Country News, an award-winning news organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Major Gifts Officer to join our...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • VICE PRESIDENT, LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION
    Basic Summary: The Vice President for Landscape Conservation is based in the Washington, D.C., headquarters and oversees Defenders' work to promote landscape-scale wildlife conservation, focusing...
  • BRISTOL BAY PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Seeking a program director responsible for developing and implementing all aspects of the Alaska Chapter's priority strategy for conservation in the Bristol Bay region of...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The National Bighorn Sheep Center is looking for an Executive Director to take us forward into the new decade with continued strong leadership and vision:...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Powder Basin Watershed Council, based in Baker City, Oregon, seeks a new Executive Director with a passion for rural communities, water, and working lands....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.