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How much did the U.S. spend in 2007 to protect endangered species?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Protecting endangered species is an expensive proposition. The U.S. federal and state governments spent $1,537,283,091 toward conserving threatened and endangered species in 2007, plus another $126,086,999 in land purchases for habitat preservation, according to a new report from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS).

The 202-page report (PDF) covers species protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and includes money spent in fiscal year 2007 (October 2006 to September 2007).

“Conservation” includes a wide variety of activities such as “research, census, law enforcement, habitat acquisition and maintenance, propagation, live trapping, and transplantation.” On a broader note, the report defines conservation to incorporate “any and all actions taken by Federal and State agencies on behalf of threatened or endangered species listed pursuant to the Act.”

The species that required the most money in 2007 was the Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), which appears on the list multiple times because it is endangered at multiple sites; it received a total of more than $165 million. Meanwhile, three other species of salmon— chum, coho and sockeye—required another $78 million in total spending, and the 11 populations of threatened steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), a close relative of the salmon, received $128 million.

Outside of the salmon family, the most money going to an individual species was spent on the western population of the endangered Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus), which garnered $53,232,788.

Most species don’t get that kind of expenditures, though. The vast majority of species received less than $100,000 in conservation funds for the year. Seven species got $100 or less. Three endangered species, including the Saimaa seal (Phoca hispida saimensis), did not receive a single dollar of federal or state funding in 2007. (Granted, Saimaa live in Finland, but they are protected under the ESA, as are many foreign species.)

Here are a few other highlights:

  • Gray wolves (Canis lupus), which lost much of their ESA protection this year, received approximately $4.3 million in  funding in 2007.
  • The endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) received nearly $6.3 million in conservation funds. One of the main threats facing the bat is the deadly white-nose syndrome, which was discovered during the fiscal year this report covers.
  • Two highly controversial and hotly debated fish, the Delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) and the moapa dace (Moapa coriacea) received $6,678,869 and $120,534 in conservation spending, respectively
  • The Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) received $4,788,873. With an estimated population of just 100 adults, that translates to nearly $4,800 per animal.
  • Bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) left the Endangered Species list in June 2007. During their last fiscal year of protection, they received nearly $9.5 million in conservation funds.

FWS isn’t the only federal agency with expenses related to endangered or threatened species. In fact, FWS represents only about 7 percent of total federal expenditures related to the Endangered Species Act. The Federal Highway Association spent $34,977,711. The Army spent $45,093,322, while the Army Corps of Engineers spent $211,976,370. The Department of Energy’s Bonneville Power Administration spent a whopping $533,223,325. Even the Bureau of Indian Affairs spent $75,000.

This is all just a drop in the bucket of the total funds required to protect endangered species. Millions come from NGOs and private organizations, and many states have their own endangered species lists, which cover some species not included on the federal ESA.

Image: Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in front of the U.S. flag. / John De Boer / StockXchng

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  1. 1. Soccerdad 1:48 pm 10/13/2009

    Apparently the author is unfamiliar with the concept of the appropriate number of significant figures. To state that the governments spent $1,537,283,091 implies that one knows the exact amount. In reality, this is more of an estimate since it is probably difficult to even rind all the spending. A simple $1.5 billion would have been just as meaningful, and easier to read.

    I bet the amount spent by government pales in comparison to the amount that it costs private parties to comply with the rules. Now that’s a study I’d like to see.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Human52 3:30 pm 10/13/2009

    Save a species that has no use? If it were a food source, yeah, but a snail darter? A tree frog? Lots of species have died out, more than we will ever know about.
    That is the way of the cycle. If none had, we would be completely overun with a terrifying amount of creatures.
    Humans would become endangered, and the animals certainly would not try to save us.

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  3. 3. Darwin_was_right 5:24 pm 10/13/2009

    Who are you to say a species has no use? Survial of these species is a direct indicator of our own health as a species. Things that we do to the environment has impacts on all plants and animals, which in turns has impacts on us. All living things on earth have a symbiotic relationship with each other and removal of one species will lead to some sort of reaction in another. Efforts to save plants and animals makes the world a better place to live in because we are correcting whatever catalyst created the problem in the first place.

    Your "Humans would become endangered, and the animals certainly would not try to save us." statement is perhaps the dumbest statement I have read in quite some time. We have never been endangered as a species by any other species in our short time here. We have out-competed and killed off any species that posed a threat to us. We are also the only animals on this planet right now with the capability for absract thought, though not all of us tend to use it. So I am curious as to what species you think would pose a threat to us.

    The Earth’s population is set to hit 7 billion people by 2011. Given our unyielding quests to find ever more inventive ways to destroy our environment through natural resource depletion, pollution, wars, and greed, the only danger to us is ourselves.

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  4. 4. sometimes-poster 12:35 am 10/14/2009

    Soccerdad said "I bet the amount spent by government pales in comparison to the amount that it costs private parties to comply with the rules. Now that’s a study I’d like to see." How much does it cost any private party to obey the law? If the aggregate costs of obeying a law exceed the costs of administering the law, does that mean the law should be invalidated? If not, then what’s the point of Soccerdad’s comment? If someone wants to look at a net valuation of endangered species protection, that would include costs and benefits. Maybe that’s been done. There are valuations of ecosystem services that dwarf measures like GDP.
    I’ve known some large landowners who have had to restrict timber clearing on some properties. One could say that not clearing that timber entails costs (restricted use of that acreage, no income from selling timber), but the costs of not doing certain activities should generally be quite limited.
    I’ll grant there will be exceptions to that generalization. There are administrative procedures to grant waivers to federal and state endangered species regulations. For many endangered species, there is no federal prohibition of species "taking" on land that is not federally owned.
    I could claim a variety of costs to me because I cannot engage in prohibited activities on my property–there are things that I could do to generate income, except that those things are against a local, state, or federal law. An important difference, relative to endangered species, is that I cannot agree to a Habitat Conservation Plan and get "incidental take permits" for other laws.

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  5. 5. Soccerdad 11:23 am 10/14/2009

    Hey sometimes,

    The point is this. If you buy your property and restrictions are already in place, tough luck. However, governmental restrictions on using one’s property can come along after that person has purchased the property. This should be considered a taking and the property owner should receive compensation for the diminished value of his property. If society as a whole benefits, that’s great. Just don’t expect the property owner to shoulder the cost.

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  6. 6. pgtruspace 1:43 am 10/15/2009

    I hope some day a bureaucrat takes away the use of "sometimes-poster" s property. He can keep the property and pay taxes on it, just not use it, because an endangered species is near by and might be disturbed. After all, it is for the greater good.

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