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What exactly does the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s recent reinterpretation of the Endangered Species Act portend for endangered species? Michael P. Nelson, the Principal Investigator of H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program and John A. Vucetich (an ecologist at Michigan Technological University), tackle that question in a recent opinion piece in the New York Times (NYT).

Nelson and Vucetich, who have collaborated on numerous papers on environmental and conservation ethics (and previously co-authored with Rolf O. Peterson another interesting opinion piece in the NYT, Predator and Prey, a Delicate Dance) say under the new interpretation a species qualifies for protection if it is in danger of extinction “throughout all or a significant portion of its range,” though a species does not need to be at risk of extinction everywhere it lives if it is endangered in a significant portion of its range.

“This interpretation threatens to reduce the Endangered Species Act to a mechanism that merely preserves representatives of a species, like curating rare pieces in a museum. Also likely to suffer are efforts to protect or repopulate areas where endangered species once lived,” the pair argue.

They conclude that while the new interpretation does not mean that endangered species won’t still be saved, “it falls far short of the conservation aspirations the law once embodied…[and]… will result in a world for our children even more diminished than the one we live in.”

Read the full article, Conservation, or Curation?