Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.


Contact: Kieran Suckling, (520) 275-5960,

Study Finds Species Recovery Will Take Decades, but Progress is Steady

Tucson, Ariz. - The Center for Biological Diversity released a report today which found that no endangered species have gone extinct in the Northeast and 93 percent have increased their population size or become stable since being protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“The Endangered Species Act has been remarkably successful,” said Kieran Suckling, policy director for the Center and author of the report. “Humpback whales, bald eagles, brown pelicans, green and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, piping plovers, roseate terns, red-bellied turtles, and dwarf cinquefoils are just a few of the species that are recovering quite nicely.”

Titled Measuring the Success of the Endangered Species Act: Recovery Trends in the Northeastern United States, the report is the first ever attempt to document long-term population trends of all endangered species within a region. The 125- page study covered eight states: Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. It examined population trend data for all 53 species which were listed as endangered for at least six years.

“There is considerable rhetoric surrounding the Endangered Species Act,” said Suckling, “but very few efforts to gather and scientifically study real data. The data are now in and it’s clear that the Endangered Species Act is effective.”

In a prepared statement, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) said: "This report documents the strong success of the Endangered Species Act in not only preventing the extinction of our imperiled plants and animals, but in helping them to recover. With more resources for conservation and better incentives for private landowners, we can and should improve recovery efforts, but this report makes it clear that the Endangered Species Act is already moving us in the right direction."

The study also found that recovery is a long-term process and it will take decades of continued work to recover and remove all Northeastern species from the endangered species list. Federal recovery plans exist for most species and require an average of 42 years to achieve recovery. On average, however, Northeastern species have only been protected by the Endangered Species Act for 24 years. The recovery plans expected 11 species to have recovered by 2005. The actual record shows that nine have been downlisted from “endangered” to “threatened” status, delisted, proposed for delisting, or are under consideration for delisting in whole or in part.

“It is important to have rational expectations of how long recovery will take and how much work is involved. Declarations by Richard Pombo (R-CA) that the Endangered Species Act is failing because most species have not yet recovered, are nonsense,” said Suckling. “Pombo is like a man who starts a ten-day antibiotic treatment then complains that he’s still sick on the third day. Recovery takes time. The good news is that 93 percent of species are on the recovery track.”

According to Bill Brumback, conservation director of the New England Wild Flower Society (Framingham, MA), “the report is a rebuttal in a lot of ways to people who say the Act isn’t working well. In the Northeast, it is working.”

Lawrence Taft, executive director of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island stated, “Today our mission requires that we support the continuance of a strong Endangered Species Act. The Act is working, but the Act itself is endangered. Every species must be protected not only for its own sake but so that future generations may benefit from the value it has to offer."

The report and summary slideshow can be seen at

The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 18,000 members dedicated to protecting endangered species and wild places through science, policy, education, and environmental law.


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