Our national parks are home to awe-inspiring landscapes and iconic wildlife, including habitat for more than 600 threatened and endangered species protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This landmark legislation—signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1973—is our nation’s most effective statute for protecting wildlife in danger of extinction: just 1 percent of species listed under the ESA have been declared extinct, and many are on the path to recovery.
A vital part of that success has been the sanctuary provided to imperiled species by national parks. The law that established the National Park Service specifies that its mission “is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein…” Protecting the endangered species that live within national parks is central to the Park Service’s mission.
The National Park System’s well-protected landscapes are a clear benefit to ESA-listed wildlife. What is less obvious is how species protected by the ESA have benefited parks. These species are critical to the integrity of park ecosystems, sustaining and preserving intact, important natural systems.
Win-Win: The Endangered Species Act and Our National Parks, a report from National Parks Conservation Association and Defenders of Wildlife, demonstrates how national parks and the ESA support each other – a win-win for parks and wildlife.
The ESA benefits national parks and surrounding communities in four key ways:
- Healthier parks and communities result from the legal protections, collaborative planning and partnerships fostered by the ESA.
- More money, staff and management upgrades flow to parks and their state and federal partners thanks to ESA-driven wildlife management.
- Science-based policy change driven by ESA processes help park managers protect all their natural resources, not just endangered wildlife.
- Stronger local economies enjoy the stream of visitors who flock to parks to view iconic species saved, recovered and protected by the ESA.
The mutually beneficial relationship between the ESA and our national parks will benefit our nation for generations to come — if the ESA maintains its current strong protections for the threatened and endangered plants and animals who call America’s national parks home.
Download the report to learn more.