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Harv. Envtl. L. Rev.


The world is experiencing its sixth episode of mass extinction of life. In rhetoric typically used by bloggers rather than scientists, the National Academy of Sciences reports that this "biological annihilation" is more dire than previously believed,' and that the decimation of biodiversity and of the ecosystem services resulting from it is nothing less than a "frightening assault on the foundations of human civilization."2

Unlike previous episodes of mass extinction, this one is caused by human overpopulation, overconsumption, and anthropogenic climate change. The United States has been a world conservation leader for over a century, but its commitment to supporting biodiversity is flagging while its contributions to the causes of extinction, including responsibility for 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions,' are growing. Although the United States is only one player in this crisis, its legal mandates for biodiversity protection, including those contained in the Endangered Species Act,4 have proved essential for combatting extinction when assessed in the context of both global leadership and on-the-ground impacts.

Due to its broad influence on the field of biodiversity law and its overarching goal to conserve threatened and endangered species, this article focuses on the Endangered Species Act ("ESA" or "Act") and analyzes whether and when regulatory mechanisms are adequate for conservation and recovery purposes under the Act. Within the United States, identifying effective measures for the coordination of conservation efforts across federal, state, tribal, and local jurisdictional boundaries is critical for the preservation of species. To date, most of the attention on the efficacy of such measures has been focused on the prelisting phase and the private-public candidate conservation agreements aimed at forestalling or preventing the listing of an imperiled species. Little attention has been paid to the post-listing phase of species recovery and the critical question of whether the continued recovery of recently delisted species would be enhanced by keeping adequate regulatory mechanisms in place after the ESA's statutory protections have fallen away. Strengthening provisions for species recovery requires political connectivity and coordination. In particular, the population health of apex predators such as grizzly bears and wolves, as well as many fish and bird species, depends on cooperation between the several entities charged with conservation responsibility.