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Special Status Species Program Summary Banner

Program Summary

    History of the Endangered Species Act (ESA)
    Congress passed The Endangered Species Preservation Act in 1966 providing limited protection of endangered species.

    In 1969, The Endangered Species Conservation Act was passed to provide additional protection to species in danger of "worldwide extinction." Import and sale of listed species in the United States was prohibited.

    Departments of Interior, Agriculture, and Defense were to seek to protect listed species, consistent with their primary purposes, and to preserve habitat.

    In 1973, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act, which combined and considerably strengthened the provisions of its predecessors, and broke some new ground.

    Some important provisions of ESA:

    • Categories of "endangered" and "threatened" were defined [section 3];
    • Plants and all classes of invertebrates were eligible for protection [section 3];
    • All Federal agencies were required to undertake programs for the conservation of endangered and threatened species, and were prohibited from authorizing, funding, or carrying out any action that would jeopardize a listed species or destroy or modify its "critical habitat" [section 7];

    While the overall framework of the 1973 Act has remained essentially unchanged, significant amendments were enacted in 1978, 1982, and 1988.

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