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What laws protect endangered species?

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Quick Answer

As of 2015, the Endangered Species Act contains the laws that protect endangered species, explains the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This legislation gives the federal government the ability to define a species as threatened or endangered and outlines enforcement procedures and penalties for violations.

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Full Answer

Authorities may impose both civil and criminal penalties on anyone who violates the statutes of the Endangered Species Act, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Consequences include fines up to $50,000 and a year in jail. The Endangered Species Act authorizes appropriate federal agents to search and seize any equipment or property involved in violations and requires the cancellation or suspension of any relevant licenses or permits. Defendants who prove they harmed an endangered or threatened species in order to protect themselves or another person are exempt from prosecution.

Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973 to protect plants and animals in danger of becoming extinct, notes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The act defines endangered species as those faced with extinction, while threatened species are those that might soon become endangered. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for terrestrial plants and animals, but the National Marine Fisheries Service enforces the law as it relates to aquatic species, such as salmon and whales. The Endangered Species Act applies to all varieties and subspecies of an animal. Pest insects are not eligible for listing.

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