Endangered Species--A Controversial Issue Needing Resolution

CED-79-65: Published: Jul 2, 1979. Publicly Released: Jul 2, 1979.

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GAO reviewed the endangered species program as administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Its goals are to prevent endangerment and extinction of plant and animal species caused by man's influence on existing ecosystems and to return threatened and endangered species to the point where they are no longer threatened or endangered.

The listing process is the cornerstone of the endangered species program because it sets in motion all the other provisions of the art, including the protective regulations, consultation requirements, and recovery funding. However, deficiencies in the FWS listing process threaten effective implementation of the entire endangered species program. The consultation process still has conflicts involving ongoing and planned federal projects and programs. Further improvements could avoid unnecessary project delays and adverse impacts on endangered and threatened species and their critical habitats. Improvements are needed in the FWS recovery program, land acquisitions, state participation, and federal enforcement and prosecution.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should not increase funding for consultation with other federal agencies to resolve potential conflicts between endangered-threatened species and federal projects and programs until FWS demonstrates that it needs the resources. In addition, Congress should no longer fund endangered species land acquisitions inconsistent with FWS policies and program criteria. Congress should further amend the Endangered Species Act to limit the act's protection to species endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of their ranges; state clearly that the Endangered Species Committee is authorized to grant permanent exemptions from the act's protective provisions to federal projects committed to or under construction before November 1, 1978 and to all federal programs not involving construction; and require federal agencies to consider a project's or program's impact on species suspected of being endangered or threatened, but not yet listed officially.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director, FWS, to: apply the same listing policies and criteria to all biologically eligible species; decide the types of information needed to list species as endangered or threatened and reclassify or remove from the list species whose futures are reasonably secure; develop adequate procedures to identify, review, and act on petitions to change the status of species; establish a system to exchange information on listed, proposed, and candidate species among federal agencies and states; identify and include in regulations the minimum biological data required to render biological opinions; approve and implement the draft recovery priority system to be used as a guide for recovery planning and resource allocations; reassess the process of developing, approving, implementing, and evaluating recovery plans and take the actions necessary to make the process more timely; see that land purchases are consistent with FWS policies and program criteria; reassess what actions can be taken to increase state participation in the endangered species program; and strengthen enforcement and prosecution.

    Agency Affected:


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