For Immediate Release, May 12, 2023


Israel Chavez, Doña Ana Village Association,
Jeanne Dodds, Endangered Species Coalition, 360.624.8653

New Mexico Mural Celebrating Biodiversity Unveiled by Local Artists, Partners

Mural Series to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act

Doña Ana, N.M.—  A collaboration of artists and partners will unveil the first in a series of murals to commemorate the 50th year of the Endangered Species Act on May 19th, at 3:00 pm in Doña Ana, New Mexico. The event will feature a community celebration with creative activities for youth and opportunities to watch the mural in progress. Migration: A Natural Act is a striking portrayal of the natural magnificence of southwestern New Mexico, with a particular focus on its imperiled fauna. 

The mural, located at 135 Joe Gutierrez Street, Doña Ana (Las Cruces), New Mexico, highlights the Boreal Owl, Gila Monster, and two endangered fish species –  the Chihuahua Chub and Roundtail Chub. Migration is a recurring theme of the artwork, with the river symbolizing the innate movement of humans and animals across the landscape. The river depicted in the mural is a potent force, breathing new life into the terrain and restoring its vitality. In the mural’s corners, one can observe the towering cottonwood trees, which are indigenous to the Doña Ana community and serve as a poignant reminder of the region’s rich natural heritage.

“Despite the obstacles faced by the endangered species depicted in the mural, the artwork’s overarching message is one of hope. It conveys that through diligent effort and unwavering commitment, it is conceivable to re-establish equilibrium in the ecosystem and revive the region’s vitality,” said artist Raquel Madrigal. “The mural is a beautiful tribute to the significance of preserving the natural world and its diverse fauna.”

The Endangered Species Act 50th Anniversary mural series will spotlight regional ecological and cultural diversity within the US by highlighting plants and animals that are protected by the Endangered Species Act. Species that are currently listed and in danger of extinction will be featured as well as some species who have recovered thanks to this landmark legislation. Murals will be installed throughout 2023 at regional locations across the US, including in Oregon, Arizona, Massachusetts, Florida and in other states.

About the Artist

Raquel Madrigal is an interdisciplinary artist with a degree in Fine Arts, who is widely known for her captivating murals, posters and zines that incorporate her unique poetry. Her murals, in particular, have garnered attention for their powerful narrative highlighting the struggles and triumphs of working-class families as well as the endangered species in Southern New Mexico.

About Doña Ana Village Association

The Doña Ana Village Association (DAVA) was founded in 2021 as a result of several community conversations which demonstrated a serious need for community organizing and representation. The Village of Doña Ana is the oldest federally designated Colonia in southern New Mexico, and its representation is limited to legislators and county commissioners. 

About ESA at 50

In 2023, the 50th anniversary provides a unique, year-long opportunity to build support for the Endangered Species Act and imperiled species by celebrating conservation achievements, highlighting conservation needs, and generally reminding the public and decision-makers why plants, fish, and wildlife are beloved and vital to the heritage we share as Americans. Just as in 1973, an unprecedented coalition of agencies, organizations, and nonprofits are coming together to commemorate this conservation legacy.

Stay up to date with the Mural

By Tim Preso, Managing Attorney, Earthjustice

We must not only protect and restore the Endangered Species Act, but ensure strong implementation for its next 50 years.

This year, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) turns 50. Recognizing that extinction is irreversible, the United States in 1973 did what no country had done before, establishing a fundamental right to exist for the animal and plant species with which we share our planet. Enacted in the midst of a worldwide extinction crisis that threatened even our national symbol, the bald eagle, the ESA reflected the resolve of a society determined to guarantee a future not only for itself, but also for the rest of creation, even when that required difficult choices.

Today, more than 90 percent of the American public supports the ESA, widely regarded as one of the most important conservation laws in history. The experience of four decades has demonstrated the importance of the ESA’s legal safety net. Because of the Act, today’s children are able to experience not only bald eagles but also orcas, alligators, condors, grizzly bears, and myriad others as living, breathing creatures — not dusty museum specimens.

And we need the ESA now more than ever as our extinction and climate crises worsen. According to a report released by NatureServe this year, over one-third of biodiversity in the U.S. is at risk of disappearing. The report found that 34% of plants and 40% of animals are at risk of extinction, while 41% of ecosystems are at risk of range-wide collapse. Globally, one million species face the threat of extinction in the coming decades. Habitat loss is the number one driver of this biodiversity crisis, and climate change has only compounded the problem.

Yet in its 50th year, this incredibly successful and popular piece of bedrock environmental legislation is under fire from political detractors. A Republican-led effort in the House of Representatives is attempting to weaken the Act by exempting, or picking off, individual species from legal protection. Representative Lauren Boebert recently introduced a bill to delist gray wolves nationwide. Representatives Hageman and Rosendale have introduced bills to delist grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide ecosystems, respectively. And several bills seek to utilize the extreme and blunt instrument of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to repeal administrative rulemakings under the ESA, including protections for the lesser prairie chicken and long-eared bat and the legal definition of what counts as a species’ critical habitat.

The intensity of this onslaught of hostile legislative proposals reveals something important about the ESA: it works. If it lacked the teeth needed to reliably bolster survival for endangered plants and animals, politicians championing harmful development projects wouldn’t target it. In fact, 99 percent of the species protected under the ESA have been saved from extinction.

And selfishly, it works for humans too. The same natural systems that make life possible for other creatures also make life possible for people. Natural systems filter pollutants to provide clean air and water, protect soil quality, and provide pollination and pest control for agriculture. The diversity of species produced by these systems provide us with food and medicine. Natural processes help to mitigate climate change, as more than half of all human-caused carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by natural systems that include, among others, old-growth and mature forests. And a diverse and flourishing natural world enriches all of our lives.

Many of the ESA’s implementing regulations were weakened by the Trump administration; these protections should be promptly restored. And going forward, our political leaders should look for new opportunities to ensure that the ESA can be as effective as possible not only in preventing extinctions, but also in restoring and recovering imperiled species.

In the law’s 50th anniversary year, it is time for us to not only protect and restore the Endangered Species Act, but to ensure strong implementation for its next 50 years. Our ability to protect the web of life on our planet – and ultimately ourselves – depends on it.

May 15, 2023  Jamie Rappaport Clark,

Defenders of Wildlife

The world’s strongest law for wildlife conservation is once again under vicious and unrelenting attack.

In a reckless bid to roll back the U.S. Endangered Species Act, Congress is holding hearings on new bills that will deal a devastating blow to the ESA, even as biodiversity and climate crises reach a tipping point. These anti-wildlife bills directly aimed at weakening the law are being introduced at an alarming pace of about one per week, already 22 in 2023 alone. This growing effort is part of a larger ESA assault that must be fiercely opposed and soundly defeated.

Credit Defenders of Wildlife

For more than 50 years, the ESA has provided a critical pathway for conserving threatened and endangered species and protecting the ecosystems on which they depend. Despite its importance, relevance and success, Congress has consistently underfunded this important nature protection law, and at this point, is providing only a meager 40 percent of the funding required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fully implement it. This doesn’t even include the amount required by the NOAA Fisheries for marine species. Without adequate funding, species that deserve protection will continue to decline and many may cease to exist altogether.

My career has been dedicated to conserving imperiled wildlife species and the important landscapes so critical to their survival and recovery. I know firsthand the role the ESA plays in preventing species extinction. And I have participated in important species restoration efforts over the years and celebrated their recovery thanks to the ESA.

During the first 50 years, the ESA has saved more than 95% of listed species from extinction. This incredible success is truly remarkable, in spite of the fact the law has been continuously starved of precious funding, staff and resources. With one million species vanishing at a rate not seen in 10 million years, we need to do everything we can to shore up successful laws like the ESA instead of tearing them apart or starving their efficient implementation. Without the protections of the ESA, many of these species will disappear in the near future, with amphibians, birds and marine mammals at particularly high risk.

Credit Defenders of Wildlife

Despite the urgency that biodiversity loss and climate change present to wildlife as well as people and the overwhelming support of the public to conserve wildlife and address climate change, there is an escalating and disturbing lack of political will to support the conservation of nature. Public officials too often focus only on short-term goals and are unwilling to make necessary investments to protect our imperiled wildlife.

The ESA is not just a law. It is a lifeline for thousands of plants and animals struggling to survive in a rapidly changing world and a testament to our commitment and responsibility to protect our planet and its biodiversity for future generations. We cannot afford to allow short-sightedness and politics to drive us to the brink of ecological collapse. We must defend the Endangered Species Act with all our might and demand that our elected officials do the same. The survival of our fellow creatures, and ultimately our own, depends on it.



It’s here again – the 18th annual, international Endangered Species Day will be taking place on Friday, May 19th, 2023! 

Find out how you can celebrate Endangered Species Day this May.

Endangered Species Day is an opportunity for people of all ages to celebrate and learn about endangered species and how to protect them. 2023 is particularly special because it’s also the 50th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, a landmark piece of conservation legislation protecting our nation’s fish, plants, and wildlife. Thousands of organizations and individuals will hold special events and take action for Endangered Species Day this year – and we hope you’ll join in! 

Here are just two exciting ways that you can participate in Endangered Species Day this May:
  • Large Carnivore Trivia Night (May 17): Join us for a fun trivia game night with four rounds of questions featuring our favorite large carnivores – gray wolves, orcas, and grizzly bears! We’ll be hosting the trivia night over Zoom, so you can take a break from trekking to your local bar and play from the comfort of your own home. Questions will range from ecology and biology to history, politics, and pop culture, and prizes will be given out to the winners. 
  • Endangered Species Chalk Art Event (May 19 – 21): For the third year in a row, we’re holding an all-ages chalk art competition. You’re invited to create chalk art in your neighborhood depicting threatened or endangered species. If you post a photo of your chalk art on Instagram you can win prizes, including a $250 grand prize – and raise awareness of the importance of protecting wildlife. 
Join one of these events or find another Endangered Species Day activity near you!  This Endangered Species Day is a chance to celebrate the biodiversity all around us, take action to protect our most cherished wildlife species, and commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the

By Andrew Carter, Mary Elizabeth Beetham, Defenders of Wildlife

The U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed with broad bipartisan support and signed into law by Republican President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973. Nixon realized that saving endangered species was something strongly supported by the public, and since its passing the ESA has been credited with saving the bald eagle, brown pelican, peregrine falcon and numerous other species from extinction. The ESA continues to be popular with the public. Decades of polling consistently show that a significant majority of Americans, across ideological and geographical lines, support it. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the ESA, an opportunity to celebrate the success of this law rather than weaken it.

Despite its success and popularity, the ESA has been under attack for decades by politicians trying to weaken or even repeal it altogether. They have tried to cut funding, weaken protections for species, and single out species to ensure they are excluded from ESA protection. Some of these battles have gone on for decades. Most of the reasons for the attacks are unfounded. But separating myth and reality is essential for understanding the effectiveness of ESA.

Credit Defenders of Wildlife

One of the primary reasons that Congress has targeted the ESA is due to economic interests. The ESA has been criticized for placing restrictions on industries such as logging, mining and oil and gas development. Each industry argues that the ESA places an undue burden on their operations. As a result, members of Congress have been vocal in their opposition of ESA. However, research conducted by Defenders found, for example, that in over more than 88,000 consultations on federal actions, “no project was stopped or extensively altered.” Furthermore, the ESA has detailed permitting provisions that can allow a wide variety of economic activity to go forward, as long as industries take care to minimize and mitigate their impact on imperiled species. Regardless, our economy is dependent on biodiversity, which provides hundreds of billions of dollars in ecosystem services.

Some members of Congress have argued that the ESA is an overreach of federal power and infringes on states’ rights. They argue that states should have more control over the management of endangered species within their borders. The Endangered Species Act is a law of last resort, however, it protects species when state-level management has proven insufficient to keep them from the brink of extinction. But, states and tribal governments still have powerful and important roles in determining the fate of species—both before and after species are federally listed.

Political ideology also accounts for the opposition to the ESA. Some members of Congress argue that the ESA represents an excessive intervention by the federal government in private property rights or that it reflects a broader agenda of environmental extremism. This is often driven by a desire to appeal to certain small constituencies. However, polls over the past few decades consistently have shown the vast majority of Americans support the ESA and its important mission.

Finally, some members of Congress may simply lack an understanding of the importance of the ESA and the role it plays in protecting endangered species. They may not be familiar with the scientific and ecological reasons behind the ESA or the potential consequences of weakening or repealing it. In such cases, education and outreach efforts are key.
Recent legislative attempts to weaken the ESA include 52 bills in 2018 and 15 bills in 2022.

Today, the ESA is under massive assault, yet again. A total of 13 anti-ESA bills have already been introduced in the House to weaken, or even cripple, the ESA. This is a stunning rate of over one new bill per week. Yet, despite some politicians’ efforts to undermine the ESA over the years, it remains an essential tool for protecting imperiled species and their habitats. One of Defenders’ main goals is to defend the ESA against such attacks and to protect this important weapon against extinction. Scientists have warned that we are in the midst of an epic biodiversity crisis with one million species facing extinction in the coming decades. We have a moral imperative to protect threatened and endangered species and their habitats and to prevent extinction. Extinction is irrevocable.

Actions You Can Take

1.    Take it to Social Media
The fight to save endangered species is here! The ESA is under unprecedented attack by Congress. At a time of widespread wildlife extinction and habitat destruction, we should be working to strengthen, not weaken, ESA. It’s our nation’s best tool for helping to stave off the tragedy of biodiversity loss. 
2.    Support Our Efforts
Your donation will help Defenders fight to keep the ESA intact and protect the wildlife we cherish. 
3.    Send a letter
Write a letter of support for the ESA to your representatives. See our action alert.
4.    Sign Up for More Information
Don’t miss your chance to defend wildlife from extinction. Sign up for our emails to get the latest news about imperiled animals and what you can do to help them. 

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act we’ve launched a new, collaborative call for youth artists grades K-12: Collaborating for Wildlife and Plants: ESA at 50.

To support your participation, we’ve been working on a set of helpful resources and ideas for media and lessons for groups of two or more K-12 youth. You can use these resources to develop projects celebrating the successes and importance of the Endangered Species Act for our irreplaceable wildlife and plant species.

You’ll find those resources at Collaborating for Wildlife and Plants: ESA at 50, along with suggestions for media to use for your artwork and creative, collaborative possibilities..

Please visit our webpage for complete eligibility guidelines, wildlife and plant lists, and image requirements for the submission of artworks. You can submit artwork using the linked form on that page!

The Call to Artist submission platform closes to entries on April 21st, 2023.

May 19th, 2023 Endangered Species Day launch of virtual gallery of multimedia works included in Collaborating for Wildlife and Plants: ESA at 50

We can’t wait to see the collaborative projects you create! Thank you for your participation in this important celebration of the Endangered Species Act 50th Anniversary.

By Andrew Carter and Chris Parsons, Defenders of Wildlife

The U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a federal law enacted in 1973 to protect species at risk of extinction. Under the ESA, a species can be listed as either “endangered” or “threatened” if it is at risk of becoming extinct in all or a significant portion of its range. Listing a species as endangered or threatened provides it with protection from certain activities that could harm or kill the species, as well as additional conservation measures to aid in its recovery. However, the process of adding a species to the ESA can be complex and involves scientific assessments, public comment periods, and legal considerations. In this article, we’ll explore the steps involved in adding a species to the ESA and the implications of listing a species as endangered or threatened.

Credit Defenders of Wildlife

How Does a Species Get Listed? 

First, governmental agencies responsible for endangered species – either the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) – can decide a listing is needed.  

However, one of the novel aspects of the ESA is that anyone can also submit a request to list a species under the act. In most cases listing decisions are a result of such petitions. 

To be considered for listing, there must be evidence that a species is threatened or endangered because of one, or more, of the following five reasons: 

  • loss of a species’ habitat or range; 
  • over-exploitation of a species; 
  • disease or predation; 
  • failure of other regulations or measures to protect a species; 
  • other natural or manmade factors that threaten the species. 

When deciding whether a species should be listed, the decision can only be based solely on “the best scientific and commercial information available.” Commercial information includes information on how many of the species are being traded or sold.   

It’s a key part of the ESA that economic impacts should not play any role in deciding whether a species is listed. For example, if developers want to build in the middle of an endangered species’ habitat and listing the species could stop the project, this economic impact should have no influence over the listing decision. This is one reason why some developers, mining companies and similar businesses will oppose the listing of a species, and the protection that it brings, as it could potentially stop a financially profitable project for them. During the Trump Administration the agencies issued a regulation allowing them to evaluate the economic impacts of protecting endangered species on industry, even though making a listing decision based on costs is prohibited by the ESA. 

Credit Defenders of Wildlife

The Process of Listing 

When an application, or “petition”, for a species to be listed is received, the relevant government agency (FWS or NOAA Fisheries depending on the species) has 90 days to review the submission and decide whether or not listing might be called for. If they decide that the application should go forward there is a year-long review process, which includes asking the public to submit scientific or commercial information to back up, or refute, the application. Again, the government agencies are only supposed to consider these two types of information, not whether the listing would have an economic impact on businesses or companies.  

If the agencies decide to go forward with listing the species, they publish a “proposed rule” announcing their intentions. Again, further information from the public is sought and after a year if they decide listing is still appropriate, the agency publishes a “final rule” declaring that the species has been listed. 

While a species is being considered for listing, it’s classed as a “proposed species.” While this status doesn’t provide the same legal protections as listed species receive, the aim is that this status should encourage conservation action that helps the species while the listing process is being undergone.  

One of the problems with the current ESA listing process is that it takes a lot of work to list and evaluate species. Unfortunately, Congress frequently limits the amount of money available to process, enforce and enact the ESA, meaning that there is often a large backlog of imperiled species that need to be assessed with few staff and resources available to do this assessment.  

The Endangered Species Act is one of the most important laws to protect wildlife and our natural heritage in the U.S. Defenders of Wildlife is committed to ensuring that the ESA is protected and isn’t undermined by politicians. Defenders also advocates for the full funding of ESA – for its administration, enforcement and implementation.  

You can help in this important work by becoming a member of Defenders of Wildlife

If you want to take an active role in advocating for the conservation of endangered species visit our Activist Hub, which includes tips and suggestions for making your voice heard.   

By Andrew Carter and Chris Parsons, Defenders of Wildlife

This year, the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) turns 50. This landmark law was passed in 1973 and set up a framework to identify, protect and aid the recovery of species threatened with extinction. To date, 54 U.S. species have been delisted from the ESA because they have recovered to the point that they are no longer threatened with extinction. A further 56 species have been downlisted from endangered to threatened, as ESA-related actions have reduced threats upon a species and a significant recovery in their populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is currently considering another60 species for downlisting due to an increase in their numbers and ranges. The ESA is a unique law. There are many factors that make this law both visionary and highly effective. The law first reduces threats to imperiled species and then sets into action conservation efforts to help the wild population recover. Some of the factors that make the law so effective include:

The ESA is science-based

When a proposal is submitted to list a species under the ESA, or when the Services decide to evaluate a species, a review is conducted using ““the best scientific . . . data available.” Part of the ESA process is to designate and protect certain areas as ““critical habitat”” for most species that are listed (specific areas with the physical and biological features essential for the species’ conservation) – again, using science to assess and designate this habitat. Crucially, the law dictates that listing decisions must rely on science alone. The science-driven approach to listing, protecting and aiding the recovery of species and their habitats is an essential factor in the Act’s success and the rigorousness by which decisions are typically made. Unfortunately, there are frequent attempts made in Congress to redefine what is meant by “the best scientific . . . data available” and to weaken the scientific rigor of the process, as well as political pressure on agency staff to avoid listing decisions that are thought to adversely impact some industrial processes.

The ESA was written by an expert

Many of the ESA’s strongest substantive provisions were written largely by Dr. Lee Talbot, a visionary ecologist and experienced conservation scientist. Lee’s research helped with the creation of the Serengeti National Park, the Masai Mara National Reserve, and many more protected areas. He also ran the Office of Ecology for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History before going on to serve as Senior Scientist and Director of International Affairs for the Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) under President Nixon. During his tenure in the CEQ, he helped write the ESA and took the lead in writing several other environmental laws and treaties. Dr. Talbot’s scientific knowledge and practical “boots on the ground” conservation experience played a vital role in drafting this groundbreaking law. Dr. Talbot also served as a science advisor to Defenders of Wildlife and sat on the organization’s Board of Directors for many years.

The ESA was strongly bipartisan

On February 8, 1972, republican President Richard Nixon called on Congress to pass “a stronger law to protect endangered species of wildlife”. The bill that became the ESA was unanimously approved in the U.S. Senate. In the U.S. House of Representatives, the first draft of the bill was approved with 390 votes and just 12 against it. After a joint conference committee was convened to reconcile the Senate and House versions of the bill, the Senate again voted unanimously for the revised bill, and the House voted 355 in support and just 4 against the bill. President Nixon signed the ESA into law on December 28, 1973.

The ESA has been a success

Many species have been saved from extinction thanks to the ESA. There are many high-profile success stories where species have been brought back from the brink — such as the southern sea otter, the California condor, the brown pelican, the humpback whale, the piping plover, the American alligator, the peregrine falcon, the green sea turtle and even the symbol of America: the bald eagle. Critics of the ESA often focus on the low percentage of species that have been delisted – but Rome wasn’t built in a day!

However, more than 95 percent of species listed under the Act are still with us today, whereas if they had not been listed, many could already be extinct. Many of the species listed on the ESA are slow-breeding mammals and recovering from near extinction to a stable population can take decades, especially given that many of the threats facing these species have continued or worsened. These critics include many of the same policymakers that have tried to hamstring the ESA by denying funding to enforce the law or to implement recovery plans.

It ensures that government activities don’t imperil listed species

The U.S. government is a major landowner and a major funder of and permitting authority for construction and development in the U.S. Section 7 of the ESA requires that agencies consult with the FWS to ensure activities the government funds, conducts or authorizes do not jeopardize the existence of, or adversely modify the critical habitat of, threatened and endangered wildlife. Critics often claim that these consultations lead to development being canceled and jobs being lost. However, researchers at Defenders found that out of nearly 90,000 FWS Section 7 consultations (between 2008 and 2015), no projects were stopped or extensively altered. They concluded that federal agencies have learned to design projects with minimal impacts on endangered species and that they’ve been able to work through potential conflicts and make suitable adjustments to proposals. Unfortunately, there have been many attempts to change the law to exclude various government activities from Schedule 7 consultations, especially in recent years.

The ESA was visionary

The ESA is a truly visionary law and has become a model and inspiration for endangered species protection in other nations. Many provisions in the ESA were especially prescient, particularly its recognition of the importance of protecting habitats as well as the species they contain and the best available science mandate, which in the years since has become a component of numerous other laws and treaties. The ESA still works because when it passed, the ESA was far ahead of its time: it was a law for the 21st century written in the 1970s. It is a law that is widely supported among the American public, with a majority of Americans from all ideological backgrounds supporting it. It’s also a law that is a central weapon in the United States’ fight against the biodiversity crisis.

Authored by the U.S. Department of the Interior. (


This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, providing the opportunity to reflect on the progress made and the work ahead for protecting our nation’s endangered species and their habitats. The Act has saved hundreds of species from extinction and continues to protect and preserve some of our most beloved animals and plants. It has also helped to create a better understanding of how human activities can impact the environment and how we can work together to protect it. Perhaps most importantly, this anniversary is a reminder that conservation efforts are essential for stemming the worsening impacts of climate change, protecting biodiversity and preserving our planet for ourselves and future generations. 

The ESA was enacted in 1973 as a response to the declining populations of many species of animals and plants. The Act was designed to protect and recover species at risk of extinction and to promote the conservation of ecosystems and habitats necessary for the survival of those species. Each of these species is a part of the web of life, each with a unique cultural and biological community, performing services that are essential to our combined well-being. By conserving them, guided by the best-available science, we help protect healthy air, land, and water for everyone. Read more…