The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) is one of the most cherished and reviled laws ever passed. It mandates protection and preservation of all the nation’s species and biodiversity, whatever the cost. It has been a lightning rod for controversy and conflicts between industry/business and environmentalists.
The year 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of this law, and provides an opportunity for a measured and thorough evaluation thereof. We cannot know today’s challenges and opportunities without understanding their histories. This book is the most comprehensive history of the ESA ever published, and the first to consider the entire history of the law from all angles in a single volume.
The history of the ESA has been one of increasing impact, complexity, and controversy. In 1978, the Supreme Court declared that Congress intended for the U.S. government to save all species at any cost, and thereafter application of the ESA became steadily more controversial, as seen in the example of the northern spotted owl and the timber wars in the Pacific Northwest in the late 1980s and early 90s, and then everywhere as the ESA became a political football in the highly partisan environment of the late 1990s and amendments to the law ceased.
This book is not only a history, but a call to action. It will take more conservation, more funding, and more innovative solutions if we are to save our wildlife and biodiversity. It will take the engagement to every American to muster the collective will to meet this challenge. The hope of this book is that we will be able to look back and say that we accomplished more in the second 50 years of the ESA than we did in the first.
Lowell E. Baier is an attorney and a legal and environmental historian and author. He has worked in Washington, D.C. throughout his sixty-year career as a tireless advocate for natural resources and wildlife conservation. Baier was recognized as the Conservationist of the Year by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in 2008, by Outdoor Life Magazine in 2010, and by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in 2013. In 2016, the National Wildlife Federation awarded him their highest honor, the Jay N. “Ding” Darling Conservation Award for a lifetime of conservation service. He is the author of numerous books, including Inside the Equal Access to Justice Act: Environmental Litigation and the Crippling Battle over America’s Lands, Endangered Species, and Critical Habitats; Saving Species on Private Lands: Unlocking Incentives to Conserve Wildlife and Their Habitats; and Federalism, Preemption, and the Nationalization of American Wildlife Management: The Dynamic Balance Between State and Federal Authority. Baier lives in Bethesda, Maryland.
Baier offers thorough, richly illustrated accounts of crises of conservation throughout American history, from the bison to the bald eagle, and up-close surveys of what it took to get the law (and its less-sweeping predecessors) passed, implemented, and on-occasion amended. Original interviews supplement a wealth of sources as Baier pays welcome attention to the shifting cultural and political contexts of the last 50 years, from surprises like “Hardship Safaris” game hunters took to bag endangered game before the law went into effect, to the continuing conflicts between developers and endangered species that have fueled outrage and litigation ever since: the snail darter fish, the spotted owl, and wolves, among others. Baier’s history will appeal to readers of environmental and policy history, of course, but its sweep, depth, authority, clarity, and engaging prose mean it should likewise command the attention of anyone eager to understand contemporary America itself, especially the complex question of what the nation values. Case studies and a federalist “road map” for the future—"smaller stick, a larger carrot, and a more balanced endangered species program”—is as illuminating as the narrative history.
This exhaustive book ably captures all the twists and turns in the development and enforcement of the ESA, up to and including the Biden administration. It features numerous citations, photos, and court cases, as well as appendices and an extensive bibliography…. Overall, this is a measured look at what the ESA means for the country and effectively shows how it came to its current state. A lengthy but thorough investigation of a long-debated American law.
With the finesse of General Ulysses S. Grant moving pieces across battlefield maps, legendary conservationist Lowell Baier has ably recounted how the Endangered Species Act of 1973 became the law of the land in this exemplary book. . . Baier’s book is not only a chronological history but a clarion call to action. It will take the engagement of every American to muster the collective will to save our wildlife resources in perpetuity.
When I served as Deputy Solicitor of the Department of the Interior, I sat down and read the entire legislative history of the Endangered Species Act to prepare to address a matter. I wish I had this wonderful work within my grasp at that time. This series is a great baseline for someone looking to learn more about the ESA or for old hands looking to reminisce and think about the future. A great read.
The impeccable writing and extensive research of Lowell Baier’s latest book, Codex, provides yet another history of a law few understand, yet is the most celebrated, and condemned, of all environmental laws. The story of the Endangered Species Act’s 50 year history, based on original sources and first-hand accounts, is a major contribution to conservation history. It’s a book of epic proportion articulated in a straight forward style that emphasizes collaboration over conflict in the application and administration of the Endangered Species Act. Lowell’s Codex will provide the definitive reference guide for decades to come.
Baier’s Codexof the Endangered Species Act is a sorely needed history of this incredibly important act. It strips away much of the disinformation about the Endangered Species Act that has materially harmed the nation’s ability to have a civil discourse about the act. Using it as a guide, we should be able to relearn how to collaborate and reach common goals for all us.
Lowell Baier’s account of the Endangered Species Act – its origins, implementation, and prospects for the future – is expansive in scope and rich in detail. It is a vital addition to the growing literature on this cornerstone environmental law.
The Endangered Species Act is one of the most powerful laws in the United States and has evoked gladiatorial conflict in the management of natural resources. Lowell Baier has magnificently captured the original intent, challenges and evolution through its 50-year history.
Lowell Baier’s comprehensive and well researched treatise is a masterful disassembling of the Goridan knot known as the Endangered Species Act. This book is a must read for students, administrators, academicians, attorneys, and anyone who tries to navigate the complexities of the Endangered Species Act. Lowell’s conversations with those who were directly involved with the development and evolution of the ESA lend a “behind the scenes” view of one of the most misunderstood and impactful statues of our generation. It provides a powerful explanation of an approach to sustain the world’s biodiversity.
1/25/24, Utah Public Radio: Baier joins the radio show host to discuss both volumes of the book and the Endangered Species Act.