Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal


The Endangered Species Act2 (hereinafter “ESA” or “the Act”) protects some of the rarest and most charismatic mammals on earth, including polar bears, wolves, jaguars, and orcas. The ESA also protects less conspicuous species and their habitats. Not all species are equal under the law; for example, plants are afforded substantially less protection, and the Act excludes pest insects if their protection “would present an overwhelming and overriding risk to man.” But the ESA does provide a remarkable degree of taxonomic equality for most covered species, generally treating bears and burying beetles as equals. This equality infuriates opponents of the Act, such as trade associations and water suppliers who are not persuaded that Delhi Sands flower-loving flies and Santa Ana suckers merit the same conservation efforts as bald eagles and Florida panthers. Yet the Act recognizes that even small, non-charismatic creatures may provide essential ecological services.