The Politics and the Science behind the Endangered Species List

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The Endangered Species Act passed in 1973, based partly on a powerful symbol: the dwindling number of Bald Eagles. After the act passed, protecting the national bird led to restrictions on pesticides and a ban on the insecticide DDT. Keeping Bald Eagles alive helped promote a much broader environmental movement. Gray wolves went on the list in 1974, but except in Alaska, there weren't any left to protect. In 1995, 66 of the animals were "re-introduced" into national parks in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Now there are about 1500, ranging over some 113,000 square miles, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service is removing them from the List of Endangered Species, though not without controversy and possible legal action. Polar bears may go on the list but not because their numbers are dwindling—as yet. They're threatened by global warming. Are there really enough wolves? Can they survive legal hunting in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming? Is the polar bear being used as a powerful symbol in the broader debate about climate change?



  • Steve Nadeau - Large Carnivore Manager, Idaho Department of Fish and Game
  • Louisa Willcox - Senior Wildlife Advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Rosa Meehan - Alaska Chief of Marine-Mammal Protection, US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Kieran Suckling - Policy Director, Center for Biological Diversity
  • Joel Southern - Washington Bureau Chief, Alaskan Public Radio Network


Warren Olney


Dan Konecky, Sonya Geis