The Endangered Species Act (ESA for short) was enacted by Congress in 1973. Under the ESA, the federal government has the responsibility to protect:
- Endangered Species – Species that are likely to become extinct throughout all or a large portion of their range.
- Threatened Species – Species that are likely to become endangered in the near future.
- Critical Habitat – Vital to the survival of endangered or threatened species.
The Endangered Species Act has lists of protected plant and animal species both nationally and worldwide. When a species is given ESA protection, it is said to be a “listed” species.
As of October 2009, 1,361 plants and animals in the United States were listed as threatened or endangered. There are many additional species that are currently being evaluated for possible protection under the ESA, and they are called “candidate” species.