Listed: Dispatches from America's Endangered Species Act

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Paul R. Ehrlich
A beautifully written description of what is happening to many of our only known living companions in the universe, told against the background of the much (ignorantly) maligned U.S. Endangered Species Act. It is also a plea to take steps that would help to preserve threatened organisms and us. A fascinating read.
Wall Street Journal - Katherine Mangu-Ward
In Listed, conservation biologist Joe Roman recounts the uses and abuses of a well-intentioned but all-too-human law...Roman's meandering and occasionally lyrical book is generally optimistic about the law he is chronicling, and he tends toward win-win tales.
Booklist - Nancy Bent
The Endangered Species Act has been under attack since it was passed in 1973, when the tiny snail darter temporarily stopped the building of the Tellico Dam. The history of the act, and all of the ramifications of listing (or not listing) a species as endangered under the act, is thoroughly investigated in this wide-ranging examination of one of the most important pieces of federal legislation of the twentieth century. Roman chose a few cases to illustrate why people feel threatened by the act--it puts people out of work and it puts animals before people--and why biodiversity protection really works. Roman joined scientists as they studied such high-profile species as the Florida panther, red-cockaded woodpecker, and whooping crane, as well as researchers who look at Lyme disease, ethnobotanists studying medicinal plants, malacologists trying to save freshwater mussels, and a volunteer working on the gopher frog. As he describes the field research, Roman demonstrates why saving endangered species and protecting biodiversity makes sense economically, medicinally, and philosophically. A perfect primer on the Endangered Species Act.
Washington Post - Christopher Schoppa
Roman offers revealing case studies on the effects of the Endangered Species Act, which has been under attack almost since becoming law in 1973. Complaints have focused on the burdens placed on governments and citizens. Roman counters by making the case that protecting species can benefit both the environment and business.
American Scientist - Daniel Simberloff
Read[s] like dispatches from a war reporter in the midst of battle...Listed takes an idiosyncratic approach to the [Endangered Species Act], using it as an entry to many issues and controversies in conservation. Roman is an engaging author, and readers will enjoy the book. They will also come away having gained a deeper understanding of the Act, along with a plethora of interesting facts about listed species.
Choice - J. L. Hunt
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was a revolutionary step toward the protection of threatened biodiversity, but it has not been an unqualified success. In Listed, Roman examines the history, accomplishments, and failures of the law with a series of essays, each of which focuses on one of the animals the act affects...The book is informative and enjoyable.
Kirkus Reviews

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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674047518
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 5/15/2011
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 996,561
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Joe Roman is a researcher at the University of Vermont, the author of Whale, and senior editor of the journal Solutions.
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Table of Contents

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

Notes 319

Acknowledgments 347

Index 349

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