Myths and Facts
About the Environment --
Part VII: Endangered Species


Myth: The Endangered Species Act has been successful.

Fact: Since the creation of the Endangered Species Act, 23 years ago, only 31 species have managed to get off the endangered species list. Seven of these were due to extinction. The rest were taken off either by court order, species improvement unrelated to the ESA, or "data error" -- "data error" meaning that they were wrongly added to the list in the first place.

Myth: The Northern Spotted Owl is a legitimate species.

Fact: The Northern Spotted Owl is at best a subspecies of the larger family of spotted owls. Even this is unlikely, though, since blood tests have failed to distinguish the Northern Spotted Owl from the Californian Spotted Owl, with which it regularly interbreeds.

Myth: The Northern Spotted Owl is in danger of becoming extinct due to human destruction of old-growth forests.

Fact: The greatest concentration of nesting pairs of Northern Spotted Owls was found not in an old-growth forest, but in a tree farm where the oldest trees are 40 years old. Also, one of the highest concentrations of these owls was found on 400,000 acres of land owned by the Simpson Timber Company. Barely 2% of this land is old growth forest.

Myth: The Endangered Species Act provided a reasonable definition of what constitutes a species.

Fact: Under Section 3, Definitions, the law states, "The term 'species' includes any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature." This has enabled government agencies to classify any animal that they wish to as endangered.


Information from Environmental Overkill by Dixy Lee Ray (Regnery Gateway, 1993).

Issue Date: August 20, 1996

Talking Points on the Economy: Environment #28, published by The National Center for Public Policy Research



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