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The first listed species to make headlines after the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973 was the snail darter, a three-inch fish that stood in the way of a massive dam on the Little Tennessee River. When the Supreme Court sided with the darter, Congress changed the rules. The dam was built, the river stopped flowing, and the snail darter went extinct on the Little Tennessee, though it survived in other waterways. A young Al Gore voted for the dam; freshman congressman Newt Gingrich voted for the fish.
A lot has changed since the 1970s, and Joe Roman helps us understand why we should all be happy that this sweeping law is alive and well today. More than a general history of endangered species protection, Listed is a tale of threatened species in the wild—from the whooping crane and North Atlantic right whale to the purple bankclimber, a freshwater mussel tangled up in a water war with Atlanta—and the people working to save them.
Employing methods from the new field of ecological economics, Roman challenges the widely held belief that protecting biodiversity is too costly. And with engaging directness, he explains how preserving biodiversity can help economies and communities thrive. Above all, he shows why the extinction of species matters to us personally—to our health and safety, our prosperity, and our joy in nature.
A scientifically savvy narrator untangles the legal, scientific and historical labyrinth surrounding the 1973 Endangered Species Act.
Conservation biologist Roman (Ecological Economics/Vermont Univ.; Whale,2006) traveled the country examining biodiversity protection and its cost to humans, as well as the benefits and value of the Act itself. Here the author provides enticing communiqués with field biologists, choosing his subjects based on "where there appeared to be a clear conflict between conservation and economics." Roman toggles between historical accounts of conservation attempts and contemporary issues, including climate change and the risk of emerging diseases. This technique provides a frame of reference in which to place the Act, which, from its inception, has been divisive. The author revisits the work of well-known environmentalists such as Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson and Theodore Roosevelt, while introducing equally important but unfamiliar characters, including William T. Hornaday, an eminent zoologist who in 1912 published "the first systematic attempt to list all species threatened with early extermination"; and John Clark Salyer, who in the 1930s "increased the protected acreage from less than 2 million to almost 30 million acres." In Maryland, Roman visited with aviculturists dressed in long white shrouds, masking their human forms, who use whooping crane puppets to feed the young birds and prevent their imprinting on humans. "This imaginative leap on the part of the biologists—and perhaps on the part of the crane themselves—led to the establishment of a new migration corridor east of the Mississippi," he writes.
Despite a few sections overly larded with technical terms, the author provides a memorable dispatch on the fate of endangered species.
Prologue: Boiling Spring 1
1 In the Name of the Darter 5
2 The Class of '67 16
3 Notes from the Vortex 24
4 The Endangered Species Act 49
5 A Handy Handle 63
6 Natural Capital 77
7 Magical Thinking 91
8 Grand Experiments 100
9 The Panther's New Genes 117
10 Safe Harbor 138
11 Crying Wolves 152
12 Skating over Thin Ice 180
13 Raising Whales 194
14 Questing 211
15 The Hundred Acre Wood 234
16 In Which We Upset the Ethnobotanists 246
17 Water Wars 260
18 The Most Beautiful Sound 281
19 The Platinum Blonde and the Farm Girl 291
Epilogue: Extinction's in the House 312