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Biden administration moves to protect Alaska wilderness; opening statements and first witness in NY trial; SCOTUS hears Starbucks case, with implications for unions on the line; rural North Carolina town gets pathway to home ownership.

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The Supreme Court weighs cities ability to manage a growing homelessness crisis, anti-Israeli protests spread to college campuses nationwide, and more states consider legislation to ban firearms at voting sites and ballot drop boxes.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

Endangered Species Act turns 50

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Tuesday, December 26, 2023   

This Thursday, the Endangered Species Act celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Wildlife experts say the policy has been a big help in such states as South Dakota. Since it was signed into law in 1973, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the act has served as one of the world's most important conservation laws.

Chamois Andersen, Rockies and Plains senior field representative for Defenders of Wildlife, said the policy has been essential in bringing a little more population stability to the black-footed ferret in South Dakota.

"They're the carnivore of the prairie and they're really important to our biodiversity," Andersen explained. "It's a terrific story they're in South Dakota."

While the act has saved the animal from the brink of extinction, Andersen pointed out they have not been able to see a full recovery. Lingering challenges include population controls for prairie dogs, which the ferrets prey on.

Prairie dogs are considered an agricultural pest, and Andersen urged state agencies to consider nonlethal management efforts and vegetation buffers to avoid broader habitat disruptions.

As for improving the act, Andersen emphasized she would like to see more targeted spending provisions.

"Species that are of really critical need of dedicated funding, Congress can consider those additional funds for those animals that are on the brink of extinction," Andersen urged. "We believe that they deserve that kind of financial attention."

In Congress, Republicans have pursued efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act, with backers of this approach arguing that certain protections are government overreach. But groups like Defenders of Wildlife counter that saving threatened species and their ecosystems benefits human health by supporting clean water, clean air and pollination.

Disclosure: Defenders of Wildlife contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species and Wildlife, Energy Policy, and Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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