Environmental activists and environmentally-minded policy makers in the United States have a variety of legal tools available to push for protections to threatened habitats. Many valuable and unique habitats are protected in National Parks, National Scenic Areas, or other types of federally or state-protected areas. However, there are many unique ecosystems that don’t receive enough public attention to be made into official preserves – and for many of the most threatened habitats in this country, the most important tool for their protection may be the Endangered Species Act. There is no federal law in the US that specifically says unique ecosystems must be protected; but the Endangered Species Act makes it illegal to destroy habitat designated as critical for the survival of a species. By focusing on the unique species dependent on a habitat, rather on the habitat itself, environmental groups have successfully protected many at-risk ecosystems under the Endangered Species Act. Just this month, the Center for Biological Diversity announced its intent to sue the federal government for failing to grant 144 species protections under the Act. If the case succeeds, it will protect many dwindling habitats as well as the species that depend on them.
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