Center for American Progress
[From Press Release] For U.S. species that are hurtling toward the brink of extinction, the Endangered Species Act, or ESA, is the steel guardrail between them and oblivion. Fewer than 1 percent of species protected by the ESA are recorded as later going extinct. If not for the ESA, scientists estimate that at least 227 additional American wildlife species would have gone extinct since 1973.
The ESA is an indisputable success in preventing the extinction of American plants and animals, but because it focuses on species that are already in dire peril, it alone cannot arrest and reverse the widespread decline of American wildlife…
This report proposes the establishment of a new category of wildlife designation—at risk—that would apply to species that are declining but do not yet have or merit protection as a threatened or endangered species under the ESA. The designation of a plant or an animal as at risk would enable federal, state, and local leaders to better coordinate existing conservation programs, incentives, and investments to encourage voluntary species protection and recovery efforts. Federal and state policymakers should also work to increase the availability of funding and resources dedicated to conserving at-risk species and their habitats. These investments and a clearer focus on early, voluntary conservation of rare and declining species would reduce the likelihood that they will require the mandatory legal protections of the ESA.