ES Bill of Rights

Calling for an Endangered Species Bill of Rights

By David Robinson

What rights do endangered species have?

Of course, the Endangered Species Act is designed to protect threatened and endangered species. The Endangered Species Coalition and other organizations are committed to the same challenging goal. It seemed worthwhile to develop a bill or declaration highlighting the rights that we must specifically guarantee to threatened and endangered species (See end of article for The Animal Defense Legal Fund’s Animal Bill of Rights petition.)

For example, an initial draft of a Declaration of Rights for Threatened and Endangered Species might look like this.


The Endangered Species Declaration of Rights

This declaration guarantees that threatened and endangered species:

*Have sufficient space to thrive, without human intrusions or habitat destruction; where endangered plants and flowers aren’t trampled or collected,

*Are able to dwell in a habitat where pesticides, herbicides, rodenticides, and other poisons aren’t used,

*Have wild spaces that aren’t littered with trash, including spent lead bullets, which are dangerous to wildlife that consume animals shot with that ammunition,

*Are protected from commercial overfishing that may substantially reduce their population,

*Will swim in oceans and other waterways that are free from plastics and other debris that confine, choke and trap them,

*Aren’t subject to injury or death from boat or ship injuries,

*Will not have their nesting grounds disturbed by overhead drones or other human interference,

*Can exist without being heckled, chased, sat upon, or petted,

*Have access to appropriate wildlife corridors and other safeguards that help prevent car collision injuries,

*Are free to roam without fear of killing contests, bear baiting, hound hunting, and other unethical and unsportsmanlike practices targeting neighboring species that fail to meet fair chase principles,

*Be protected from injury or death by illegal traffickers who remove and sell their tusks, shells, hides, or other body parts,

*Are not vilified for behaving “naturally” such as protecting their young or seeking sustenance,

*Receive the best possible care if they must be “kept” in captivity, and only by accredited institutions that are committed to endangered species conservation, and

*Are not “delisted” from Endangered Species Act protection, unless the decision is based on the best available science and ideally because they are considered a Success Story of species recovery.

Of course, for such a Declaration of Rights to become a formal legal document, it would require endless debate and face likely defeat. However, perhaps you can share this with your local, state, and regional representatives, and others who should be interested—as another tool to help ensure optimum protection of endangered species.

This would also be a great classroom discussion topic. Students can share their thoughts regarding the best ways to approach developing an endangered species Bill of Rights. Think of other “rights” that endangered species should have.

There is value even if it’s as a reminder to ourselves–of what we owe the wild things with which we share the planet. 

(See the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s special petition.)