Assessing the impact of Endangered Species Act recovery planning guidelines on managing threats for listed species
Since its inception in 1973, the Endangered Species Act has been met with both praise and criticism. More than 40 years later, the Act is still polarizing, with proponents applauding its power to protect species and critics arguing against its perceived ineffectiveness and potential mismanagement. Recovery plans, which were required by the 1988 amendments to the Act, play an important role in organizing efforts to protect and recover species under the Act. In 1999, in an effort to evaluate the process, the Society for Conservation Biology commissioned an independent review of endangered species recovery planning. From these findings, the SCB made key recommendations for how management agencies could improve the recovery planning process, after which the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service redrafted their recovery planning guidelines. One important recommendation called for recovery plans to make threats a primary focus, including organizing and prioritizing recovery tasks for threat abatement. Here, I seek to determine the extent to which SCB recommendations were incorporated into these new guidelines, and if, in turn, the recommendations regarding threats manifested in recovery plans written under the new guidelines. I found that the guidelines successfully incorporated most SCB recommendations, except those that addressed monitoring. As a result, recent recovery plans have improved in their treatment of threats, but still fail to adequately incorporate threat monitoring. This failure suggests that developing clear guidelines for monitoring should be an important priority in future ESA recovery planning.