Why The Endangered Species Act Can Be So Controversial

It's saved hundreds of plants and animals, but there have also been hundreds of attempts to block the law.
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The Endangered Species Act has saved hundreds of plants and animals. So why have there also been hundreds of attempts to attack the law?

Going back to the beginning, CBS notes the act was created during the Richard Nixon era to keep species alive "no matter the cost."

Depending on how successful you think the act has been, you could consider that mentality noble or misguided. 

Without a doubt, the act has had some famous success stories. The bald eagle wouldn't be around today without it. 

Neither would gray wolves, gray whales, the American alligator or the Florida manatee. 

Roughly 40 percent of species in the U.S. that are listed as endangered have seen their numbers improve under the act. 

But getting species off the list entirely is another issue. Fewer than 50 species have ever recovered enough to be delisted. Currently, over 1,200 species are listed as endangered.

Critics argue if delisting is your definition of success, the act's effects on businesses have been too costly, and it's infringed on states' rights. 

Supporters argue the act hasn't been around long enough for many species to make full recoveries. Instead, they believe success should determined by the number of species it's kept from going extinct. 

From that perspective, the act has been extremely helpful. Only 10 species that were protected by the law have gone extinct. 

Because of these two different ideas of success, some in conservation argue the act shouldn't be repealed, but it should be reworked to make both goals more achievable. 

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