When the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, the assumption was that the human impact on the environment was more modest than we now know to be the case. The author argues that we have had considerable difficulty realizing the ESA's stated goals of halting and reversing species extinction because of our powerful reshaping of the landscape and its ecological, political, and economic consequences. She also recommends ways of reorienting biodiversity protection efforts to respond to the need to set priorities in a world of scarce resources and many imperiled species. She proposes that imperiled species continue to be listed as they are now under the ESA because the imperilment of a species is a singular event, but that decisions about how to protect species be decoupled from the initial decision to list a species. After a species is listed, it should benefit from a package of temporary protections akin to a preliminary injunction, while the most cost-effective ways of protecting the species are identified and implemented. To cost-effectively protect species on a wholesale level, funding for species protection should be directed more to biological hotspots. Preventative measures, such as expanding protected areas, also should be pursued to avoid bringing species to the brink of extinction.
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