Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Biodiversity is conserved by preserving the integrity of landscape, ecosystems, and habitats to ensure species conservation. The goal of the Endangered Species Act is the conservation of unique life-forms and the natural systems upon which they depend. An evaluation of the Act's effectiveness should focus on the degree to which species and populations of organisms and the ecological relationships that connect and support them, collectively referred to as biodiversity, are being maintained or degraded. Much attention has been focused in recent years on the need to better understand and protect the planet's biodiversity; endangered species, as nonregenerable elements of this system, are an essential ingredient in any program directed at biodiversity conservation.
The loss of genetic diversity is of great concern to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Too often we find that by the time a species is threatened with extinction, so much genetic diversity has been lost that herculean efforts and expenditures are needed to attempt to save the species. In addition, the loss of genetic diversity poses grave implications for humans (e.g., genetic diversity is playing an increasingly important role in the search for disease resistant agricultural crops and new medicines).
Between FY 1991 and FY 1992, the Service's endangered species budget grew by approximately 25 percent, allowing the Service to increase proactive efforts to address biodiversity through planning, habitat protection and restoration, and monitoring. While the Endangered Species Act serves as a safety net to help prevent extinctions and avoidable loss of the planet's biodiversity, the conservation of biodiversity ultimately depends on the stewardship of all species under the leadership of the States and the Federal government in partnership with private landowners. Such partnerships are essential in balancing the needs of wildlife and plant conservation with natural resource development. This alliance, if properly developed, could minimize the need to list species under the Endangered Species Act, since the threats to their continued existence will have been avoided at the earliest possible stages.