Jamie Rappaport Clark, President & CEO
When skeptics of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) ask me, as a professional biologist, what “good” is some obscure, endangered mollusk, amphibian or plant, I often think back on the great words of the 19th century poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, who once said, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.” Their virtues may not be well known or understood by humans, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t exist and be preserved and protected.
While many species still remain a mystery, there are myriad others that are beloved and celebrated. Each winter, people gather in Sauk City, Wisc., during January to see the abundance of bald eagles that gather on the banks of the Mississippi River. The city is just one of hundreds nationwide that host festivals, tours and more to watch expanding populations of our national bird. Off the coast of California, ecotourism guides lead wildlife lovers in search of sea otters at play in the ocean; and in Massachusetts, tourists head off in boats to watch whales migrating through the Atlantic waters. In Tennessee, biologists are working hard to recover freshwater mussels that help filter impurities out of streams and rivers. And scientists are continuously exploring the medicinal value of imperiled amphibians, plants and other species.
What do all these creatures have in common? They have all been protected by the Endangered Species Act.