How should one measure the Endangered Species Act’s performance?

“…only a tiny fraction of the species that have been listed under the Act have recovered.”
And did you know that there are more extinct species than there are species? — jtl, 419
Property rights and other groups that seek reform of the Endangered Species Act oftentimes note that only a tiny fraction of the species that have been listed under the Act have recovered. Environmentalists typically respond that a recovery metric is not a good way to measure the Act’s performance. A good example of this defense, in adumbrated form, was recently made by Professor Eric Biber at LegalPlanet. Many species, he explains, are listed when they are on the verge of extinction. Yet the threats that have led to their imminent disappearance usually will take some time to mitigate. Hence, the Act may very well be “working” but we haven’t given it enough time to show its stuff.In my view, there are at least three significant problems with this defense.

First, the Act has been on the books in substantially the same form for over four decades, and many species have been protected for twenty years or more. I suspect, however, that the recovery rates are not much higher for long-listed species than they are for recently listed ones. If the Act needs more time to work, shouldn’t we see substantially better recovery rates with long-listed species?

Second, a substantial number of species are listed as threatened, which status by definition means that a species is not in imminent danger of extinction. Such species do not implicate Professor Biber’s point about species being nearly extinct when listed and therefore requiring especially time-consuming efforts at recovery. Why, then, hasn’t the Act been more effective at recovery of threatened species?

Third, the Act itself provides the appropriate measure of its performance. Section 1(b) of the Act, entitled “Purposes,” says that the Act is intended “to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved.” Section 2(3) of the Act defines “conservation” as “the use of all methods and procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered species or threatened species to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to this [Act] are no longer necessary.” Hence, the Act clearly provides that its purpose is to improve the health of listed species to the point that they can be delisted. Even Professor Biber would acknowledge that the Act hasn’t achieved that goal.

I suspect that Professor Biber, and most environmentalists, would acknowledge, at least privately, that the Endangered Species Act needs improvement. Indeed, many otherwise vociferous defenders of the Act have conceded, for example, that the Act is not well-suited to addressing threats posed by climate change, and that its reliance on old-fashioned taxonomy (species, subspecies) as its principal conservation unit is passe. See Damien M. Schiff, The Endangered Species Act at 40: A Tale of Radicalization, Politicization, Bureaucratization, and Senescence, 37 Environs 104, 120-24 (2014). But “reform” efforts are assiduously opposed because they are perceived as insincere. In other words, critiques about the Act’s effectiveness, when pronounced by non-environmentalists, are dismissed as mere pretexts for seeking a substantial weakening of the Act’s regulatory burdens. Even if that were true, green groups should still remain open to suggestions from others. It may well be that there are ways to make the Act more “green-effective” while also making it more sensitive to property rights.


Land and Livestock International, Inc. is in a position to assist the buyer in purchasing ranches like these anywhere in the Western United States and Northern Mexico. Pre – purchase services include help with due diligence, estimates of carrying capacity and potential for improvement, cash flow projections, etc. Post purchase services include everything from part time consulting to complete turn-key management.

Contact us at or through our web site at

Dripping Springs
Mule Creek, Grant County, New Mexico

The Dripping Springs Ranch is a highly improved working cattle ranch in a very desirable part of southwest New Mexico. Access to the Ranch from State Route 78 is excellent, and it is an easy drive to either Silver City, N. or Safford, Az. 232 deeded acres, 13,000 USFS acres, 150 AU. $2,500,000

Walking L Ranch
Wickenburg, Yavapai County

The Walking L Ranch’s 52+ square miles adjoin Wickenburg from the Hassayamapa River into the Wickenburg Mountains. The ranch originally consisted of the 10X Ranch on the south end and the Rincon Ranch on the north end.  The old Rincon Dude Ranch was added to the ranch’s Headquarters by the current owner. The ranch’s land tenure consists of deeded land, State and BLM Grazing Leases.  Topography is rolling to steep with elevation’s ranging from 2,100’ along the river to over 2,700’ on San Domingo Peak.  The ranch borders US 60 on the south side of Wickenburg.  The ranch’s deeded land is in seven non-contiguous parcels throughout the ranch.  The headquarters consists of 110.88 deeded acres on Rincon Road and the Hassayampa River with approximately 30 acres irrigated.  Another headquarters for the 10X is on the state lease. $5,000,000

Dos S Inholding
Fountain Hills, Maricopa County

The Dos S is a 22.78 acre private inholding surrounded by Tonto National Forest on Sycamore Creek.  It is located just off the Beeline Highway behind a locked gate 20 miles from the Shea Boulevard & Highway 87 intersection at Fountain Hills.  Payson is 40 miles to the north. $1,025,100

About Land & Livestock Interntional, Inc.

Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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