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The Endangered Species Act celebrated its 40th birthday recently.
The law came about in an effort to protect species from extinction and to restore those threatened to a vibrant status.
It took effect in 1973, along with a conservation movement that has affected not only species, but economic development. It has pitted developers against conservationists, and caused frustration in trying to balance preserving species and making a living.
The law has been applied to protect whales, sea turtles, corals and salmon, among others. It has been successful in that species listed decades ago were delisted in the 1990s and again now. The Eastern Steller sea lion is one example coming off the list.
Congress has amended the act four times. Among the changes, it added plants to the conservation law and exempted the Department of Defense from critical habitat designations.
Like other laws that prompt a ream of regulations, it can be used to good or bad. In some cases, it has served the nation well by preserving species that might have gone extinct. But in other cases, it has been misused to impede and shut down development.
The act is as good or not-so-good as the intentions of those who apply it.