the act, John F. Lacey, expressed the issue clearly: “[in] many of the states the native birds have been well-nigh exterminated” (Lacey 1900). In a related development, President Theodore Roosevelt established the nation’s first wildlife refuge in 1903 at Pelican Island, Florida.

During the twentieth century, interest in protecting native wildlife species grew. Determined to avoid the loss of more species, as occurred with the passenger pigeon and the Carolina parakeet, and spurred by drastically declining numbers of popular, visible species—such as the brown pelican, wading birds, and some species of game ducks—state and federal policy-makers established refuges and management programs. Since 1966, efforts at the federal level have included three statutes that provide the basic framework for the nation’s policy regarding endangered wildlife species.

The present federal legislative authority for dealing with endangered species is the product of a progression of three major acts of Congress. The first, the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, was the formal beginning of federal efforts. It was ineffective because of several minor flaws and three major shortcomings: it did not prohibit the taking of endangered species, it did not recognize all types of endangered species, and it did not provide habitat protection (Bean and Rowland 1997). The Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969 clarified congressional intent in some ways, but it did not rectify many of the problems in the earlier act. President Richard Nixon expressed widely held concerns that existing law “simply does not provide the kind of management tools needed to act early enough to save a vanishing species” (Nixon 1972).

LEGAL AND INSTITUTIONAL BACKGROUND

Endangered Species Act

Management of lands and water in the Platte River Basin is subject to a complex web of local, state, and federal law. The federal ESA, however, is a major regulatory force that limits land and water use in the basin. Federal decisions under the ESA triggered the present committee’s review and have been a primary motivating force behind development of the Platte River Cooperative Agreement.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 remedied the shortcomings of the earlier legislative attempts, and it is the defining instrument of present policy regarding imperiled wildlife (16 U.S.C.A. § 1531-1544). Congress found that the ESA was necessary to protect the “esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value” provided by fish, wildlife, and plants. The major purposes of the act are to provide for the conservation of endangered species and the ecosystems on which they depend. The act defines conservation as the use of all methods necessary for the recovery of species to



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