To address recent criticisms of the recovery process of the U.S. Endangered Species Act and to search for ways to improve recovery efforts, we evaluated all recovery plans approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service as of August 1991. As expected with rare species, we found an overall lack of detailed biological information presented in recovery plans. Information on species’ distributions was most common, being mentioned in 88% of the original recovery plans, while information on species’ abundance, population demographics, and dynamics (in descending order) was much less available. Biological information tended to be sparsely distributed among taxonomic groups. We found that threatened and endangered species were at risk of extinction, yet differentiation between threatened and endangered species’ status in the wild and their recovery goals was not evident. Based on criteria developed by Mace and Lande (1991) (and depending on choice of minimum criteria), population‐based recovery goals set in recovery plans, if achieved, would not improve the level of endangerment for 60–73% of vertebrate species. With few exceptions, a taxonomic bias was detected in the recovery process that favored animals over plants, vertebrates over invertebrates, and birds and mammals over fish and herpetofauna. The average time in years between listing and original recovery plan approval, however, was significantly shorter for plants (4.1) than animals (11.3), and for invertebrates (6.3) than vertebrates (9.4). It took an average of at least five years between each step in the recovery plan process (from listing to recovery plan approval and subsequent revision). Only 3.5% of the species in recovery plans were identified as keystones, and little recent emphasis has been placed on recovery plans covering multiple species. Finally, though public education was recommended frequently (92%) in recovery plans, public attitude assessment was virtually ignored (<2%). We suggest possible explanations for some of these findings, discuss the implications in light of the Endangered Species Act reauthorization, and present recommendations for future recovery plans and conservation strategies.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Feb 1, 1995
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