Endangered Species Act celebrates 40 years

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

The gray wolf has been protected by ESA. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The gray wolf that has been protected by ESA. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

When Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973, the act’s intention was to protect the nation’s plants and animals that were in danger of becoming extinct, and also to recover the ecosystems in which they live. Over the next 40 years, the act, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, helped preserve and protect countless species of plants and animals.

In 1972, President Nixon declared conservation efforts in the United States inadequate in preventing the extinction of species. Nixon called on the 93rd Congress to develop new endangered species legislation and on December 28th, 1973, the Endangered Species Act was signed into law.

Under the ESA, species can be “endangered” or “threatened.” “Endangered” means the species is in danger of extinction throughout a large portion of its range, if not the entire range. If a species is likely to become endangered in the future, the species is listed as “threatened.” As of January 2013, there were 2,054 species worldwide listed as endangered or threatened, of which 1,436 were in the United States.

The ESA is America’s most powerful environmental law, and has affected Michigan wildlife greatly throughout the years. The gray wolf was almost driven to extinction across the United States by the mid-20th century. There were virtually no gray wolves in Michigan. When the Endangered Species Act went into effect, the population of gray wolves in Michigan flourished to the point that they have been removed from the endangered species list. Their success is a result of the ESA’s efforts in public education about the species, habitat restoration, compensation of ranchers for livestock killed by wolves, and introduction of wolves into various areas.

This month, the Endangered Species Act celebrates its 40th anniversary of protecting the species of plants and animals that otherwise may no longer exist. To learn more about what the ESA has accomplished in the last 40 years, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.

Related: Timeline of Endangered Species Act History and Achievements

Modified poplars, Asian carp and a new invasive species: this week in environmental news

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

Poplar trees. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Poplar trees. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Poplars modified for ethanol production still fight bugs (Great Lakes Echo): A recent University of Wisconsin study found that genetically modifying poplar trees to more easily produce ethanol had little to no effect on the tree’s susceptibility to insects. The trees were modified in two ways, making the production of ethanol easier. These findings may bring genetically modified poplar trees closer to commercial use for a biofuel made from the cellulose in plant cell walls.

Asian carp DNA detected in Lake Michigan sample (ABC News): Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin has tested positive for the invasive Asian carp, which is the second water sample to test positive for the invasive species in recent years. The Asian carp was accidentally introduced into the Mississippi River and has made its way north. Scientists fear the Asian carp could out-compete native species in the Great Lakes and damage the $7 billion fishing industry. Scientists say it is unknown whether the sample came from a live fish or not, so the DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will take more samples.

New invasive species battle brewing in northern Michigan (Up North Live): The Department of Natural Resources has turned their attention to a new aquatic invasive plant called the European frog-bit. This species has been detected in Saginaw Bay, Alpena and Munuscong Bay in Chippewa County. Frog-bit shades out submerged native plants, which reduces plant biodiversity, disrupts natural water flow and may adversely affect fish and wildlife habitat. Control measures are underway, including removing 1,500 pounds of the free-floating plant.

Crying wolf: Michigan’s first hunt heavily influenced by outside interests; follow the money (MLive): The Humane Society of the United States has donated more than $300,000 in an effort to end the Michigan wolf hunt. More than $600,000 was donated in total. Jill Fritz, the director of the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign said the newest petition drive is all volunteers. Other opponents to the hunt include native tribes, the Doris Day Animal League and individual contributors from outside the state. Many of these people provided statements to Michigan lawmakers.

Tsunami debris ‘island’ isn’t Texas-sized, but it is headed toward the U.S. (Mother Nature Network): About 1.5 million tons of debris from the tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 is drifting across the Pacific Ocean toward the United States. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cannot accurately predict when the debris will arrive on U.S. shores. Debris has been washing up along the shores of Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Alaska. The docks that washed ashore in Washington and Oregon contained large amounts of marine life that had to be decontaminated to prevent invasive species from entering the U.S. coast.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service celebrates Endangered Species Act’s 40th anniversary

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

In 1972, President Nixon declared that “conservation efforts in the United States aimed toward preventing the extinction of species were inadequate,” and asked Congress to develop comprehensive legislation regarding endangered species. The Endangered Species Act was passed on December 28, 1973, and is considered the most important piece of endangered species legislation. Since its inception, the act has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the species it protects.

2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is honoring  the anniversary with a year-long celebration of the law and the country’s conservation efforts. Check out the timeline below for a list of significant events and achievements in the Endangered Species Act’s history. For more information on the legislation and the 40th anniversary celebrations, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.

ESA timeline