Before an at-risk animal or plant species may find shelter under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the species must first be “listed” as endangered or threatened. Even “candidate” species, those found to warrant listing on biological grounds but which are not designated due to higher listing activity priorities, receive no ESA protection. Simply put: No listing, no protection. This all-or-nothing trigger places considerable significance on listing decisions. A decision to list can elicit the full force of the ESA’s “pit bull” regulatory authorities and, potentially, result in onerous regulatory constraints on land uses. A decision not to list can continue the status quo and, potentially, result in species extinction.
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