Environmental Studies Professor: Grass Roots Action Helps Endangered Species

Aug. 20, 2012

Berry BrosiWhen it comes to protecting endangered species, the power of the people is key, according to an analysis of the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) co-authored by Berry Brosi, assistant professor of environmental studies at Emory.

The study, published in the journal Science, compares U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) listings of “endangered” and “threatened” species to listings initiated by citizen petition.

“We found that citizens, on average, do a better job of picking species that are threatened than does the Fish and Wildlife Service. That’s a really interesting and surprising finding,” Brosi said.

As noted in an article that appears on Emory’s eScience Commons Website, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been a flashpoint of controversy since it became law nearly forty years ago, particularly the provision that allows citizens to petition FWS to list any unprotected species, and use litigation to challenge any FWS listing decision. Critics of this provision say the FWS wastes time and resources processing the stream of citizen requests. Another argument is that many citizen-initiated listings are driven less by concern for a species than by political motives, such as blocking a development project. But the study findings support the need to keep the public highly involved.

“The overriding message is that citizen involvement really does work in combination with the oversight of the FWS,” Brosi added. “It’s a two-step system of checks and balances that is important to maintain.”

To read the entire article, click here.

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