Maybe we need the ESA, but we need the species even more.
While the Endangered Species Act may be among the most powerful of our environmental laws, sometimes, it still can't match the potential of simple human compassion, creativity, and self-interest to remind us about the importance of endangered species protection...
Compassion. In Tennessee, the protection of the Barrens topminnows dart didn't need the ESA. Instead, as explained in the Chattanoogan, it needed a few people who cared. "Officials decided to try working with area landowners to protect the habitat and begin an unprecedented restoration pilot project to save the Barrens topminnow." The results, aided by the Tennessee Aquarium's breeding efforts, were impressive, and the fish is being reintroduced in four Tennessee counties. On the other side of the Mississippi River, Nebraska also has program directed at encouraging private landowner conservation measures for listed species like endangered interior least terns and threatened piping plovers. According to the Grand Island Independent, private grants are an important part of the overall Platte River recovery plans.
Creativity. Meanwhile, Gary Paul Nabhan has more utilitarian ideas. According to The New York Times, Chef Nabhan "has spent most of the past four years compiling a list of endangered plants and animals that were once fairly commonplace in American kitchens but are now threatened, endangered or essentially extinct in the marketplace. He has set out to save them, which often involves urging people to eat them." For more thoughts on eating endangered species, consult the Gray Lady's interactive map.
Self-interest. Ok, dinner sounds great, but we already have food on our plates, right? But what if the protection of endangered species was unquestionably in our direct human interest? Some of you previously read my ESA musing about the red knot, horseshoe crab, and medical research. But did you read the Boston Globe article about the collapse of the bat populations? "Scientists predict that this summer there will be a population explosion of insects, which bats normally eat in large quantities. Greater numbers of beetles and moths could mean severe and costly losses for farmers and timber producers. There could also be bigger swarms of mosquitoes and other biting bugs, which will mean more discomfort for all of us." A smaller mosquito population sounds promising to me.
Hmm. (Or in some cases, yum.) Endangered species: they need us to live, we need them to live.