Academic journal article UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy

Insect Conservation under the Endangered Species Act

Academic journal article UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy

Insect Conservation under the Endangered Species Act

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

While the rate of extinction is the same for insects and other animals, insects are underrepresented in the Fish and Wildlife Service's list of threatened or endangered species. Insect conservationists have argued that the Endangered Species Act and the Fish and Wildlife Service are biased against insects, despite the importance of insects in our lives. The reality, however, is that there is only minimal bias inherent in the provisions of the Endangered Species Act or in regulations promulgated by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The main cause of the low number of insect species listed under the Endangered Species Act is a lack of qualified biologists to file and review listing petitions. Until sufficient information about insect conservation is available, petitioners could use surrogate species to protect threatened or endangered insect species.

  I. INTRODUCTION
 II. PROTECTION OF THREATENED AND ENDANGERED
     SPECIES
     A. The Problem of Extinction
     B. The Endangered Species Act of 1973
        1.  Purposes of the ESA
        2.  Statutory Protections
        3.  What Is an Endangered or Threatened
            Species?
III. THE LISTING PROCESS AND ITS EFFECT ON INSECT
     CONSERVATION
     A. The Petition
     B. The Review
        1. Listing Criteria
        2. Listing Priority Guidelines
        3. Best Scientific and Commercial Data
           Available
 IV. IMPROVING INSECT CONSERVATION
     A. Increased Scientific Knowledge
     B. Ecological Significance as a Listing Priority
        Criterion
     C. Surrogate Species
  V. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

Most people are oblivious to the indispensable role insects play in our lives. The disappearance of insects would mean the loss of a vital food source without which most reptiles, mammals, amphibians, and birds would die. (1) Flowering plants, which cover most of the land surface, would be unable to survive without insects facilitating their reproduction and providing favorable soil conditions. (2) The surface of the earth would be covered with dead vegetation and animals, and would sustain only wind-pollinated plants and very little animal life. (3) Humans would not last more than a couple of months in an insect-less environment?

Insects also provide valuable services for free. A recent study has valued the ecological services insects provide within the United States at $57 billion. (5) The study focused on services provided by wild native insects in the areas of dung burial, pest control, pollination, and wildlife nutrition. (6) Dung burial services provided by a single species, dung beetles, are valued at $380 million. (7) Insect parasites and predators provide $4.5 billion worth of pest control services for our crops. (8) Insect pollinators, mostly bees, are responsible for approximately $3.07 billion of American crops. (9) Wildlife nutrition provided by insects resulted in $49.93 billion worth of hunting, fishing, and bird watching. (10) While these figures are significant, they vastly underestimate the economic value of insects for human society. (11)

Insects are also the undisputed winners of the game of survival in the history of this planet. The first insects appeared approximately 400 million years ago and since then have managed to inhabit almost all land and aquatic habitats, and have acquired flight. (12) Today, insect species greatly outnumber all other animal species and make up over half of all organisms identified by man. (13) Another five to eight million more insect species are thought to exist, but have not been discovered or identified. (14) Careful bioprospecting (15) of this incredible insect biodiversity could yield valuable genetic and chemical raw materials that could be used to create new transgenic strains of plants and animals or the next round of cutting-edge pharmaceuticals. (16)

Yet insect biodiversity faces the same ecological threats as all other biodiversity. …

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