Endangered Species Act:

Types and Number of Implementing Actions

RCED-92-131BR: Published: May 8, 1992. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined decisions that the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) made between fiscal year (FY) 1974 and FY 1991 in implementing the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

GAO found that: (1) the five major processes that the act established for protecting plant and animal species include the petition process, the listing and critical habitat designation process, the consultation process, the recovery process, and the habitat-conservation planning process; (2) the act specifies required time frames and factors that FWS and NMFS must consider when making act-related decisions for protecting plant and animal species; (3) the criteria also delineate the processes during which economic factors may be considered in reaching decisions; (4) 65 percent of the 209 petitions FWS and NMFS received through FY 1991 for listing endangered species provided adequate biological information to indicate that listing may be warranted; (5) from FY 1987 through FY 1991, almost 90 percent of all consultations between FWS and NMFS and other federal agencies regarding the effect of proposed actions on a species did not find any jeopardy to the species, while the agencies offered alternative actions to mitigate threats in most of the remaining cases; (6) FWS and NMFS are paying greater attention to developing mandated plans to guide the recovery of listed species and have approved recovery plans for over 60 percent of all listed species; (7) beyond the 650 species already on the endangered species list, FWS and NMFS recognize 600 others as being vulnerable enough to support proposals that would list them as endangered or threatened; and (8) it will take FWS until 2006 to list those additional 600 species as endangered or threatened, primarily because of resource constraints.

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