NWF View - Keep the Wild Alive

12-01-1998 // Mark Van Putten

Swift eagles. Beautiful prairie fringed orchids. Majestic wolves. Graceful sea turtles. Creatures awesome as a humpback whale, elusive as a Florida panther, or delicate as a Karner´s blue butterfly. All and more remain part of our world today due largely to the Endangered Species Act, which marks its 25th anniversary this month.

The act is the crown jewel of the nation´s conservation laws, symbol of a moral commitment to sustain the web of life, an inspiration for wildlife protection worldwide and more.

No national action more fully embraces the admonition of famed conservationist Aldo Leopold that "the first rule of intelligent tinkering is to keep all the parts." Nor does any other legislative achievement better exemplify the ethic that we are all members of the "land community."

But most important, it works. Without the Endangered Species Act, the bald eagle might now be only a dim memory in many places. Instead, it´s flying high. Today, gray wolves that were once nearly wiped out by misguided extermination efforts again roam free in Yellowstone; their peaceful coexistence with nearby landowners is possible because of the management flexibility the law provides. In the northern Great Lakes, wolves are also thriving. When their recovery is verified by sound science and its continuation assured by thoughtful policy, their management--like that of the American alligator, another of the law´s successes--will revert to state and tribal authorities.

Indeed, the Endangered Species Act has given us a workable tool for holding on to the full panoply of creatures that grace our planet, benefiting people and wildlife alike.

Thanks to the act, the National Wildlife Federation was able to forge a citizen-management plan that promises to soon return the majestic grizzly bear to the Bitterroot wilderness of the Northern Rockies. And applying the act´s underlying purpose of conserving ecosystems, NWF is working to secure the law´s protection for the black-tailed prairie dog--protection that will simultaneously help conserve this keystone species, related wildlife and their fast-disappearing grasslands habitat.

The promise of the law is virtually unlimited, provided that we all work together to celebrate and build on its successes.

Still, no conservation achievement has had to rely more on the support of citizen activists who for a generation have shielded the Endangered Species Act from attempts to weaken it by those who mistake license to use the land as a writ to clear it of everything that might compete with their interests. We must continue that support, even as we celebrate the victories of the past and set new goals for the future. As always, NWF will take the lead on your behalf.

The knowledge, passion and involvement of caring people can make the difference that will keep the wild alive. The Endangered Species Act is our tool and our guide to that essential outcome. Its 25th anniversary is occasion for us all to reinvigorate our commitment to saving the wildlife and wild places we know and love.

Mark Van Putten
President & Chief Executive Officer
National Wildlife Federation

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