The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) is a highly funded organization that was created in 1948 for the purpose of “evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species” and to open dialogue between naturalists and the promoters of human development.
“The first Director General of UNESCO, (Sir Julian Huxley), wishing to give UNESCO a more scientific base, sponsored a congress to establish a new environmental institution to help serve this purpose.
At that first congress (held at Fontainebleau, France), on 5 October 1948, 18 governments, 7 international organizations, and 107 national nature conservation organizations all agreed to form the institution and signed a “constitutive act” creating an International Union for the Protection of Nature.”
According to the IUCN, the goal of the Red List is to highlight to public and policy makers the scale of our planet’s conservation problems and the degree to which the international community should be responding. The Red List is a mechanism being used “to motivate the global community to work together to reduce species extinctions.”
“Biodiversity loss is continuing at an unprecedented rate, with many species declining to critical levels and significant numbers going extinct. The IUCN Red List is the most comprehensive information source on the status of wild species and their links to livelihoods. It is the clarion call for fighting the extinction crisis.”
The Red List claims that it uses highly technological assessment mechanisms to determine the extinction risk of species. Assessments cover all manner of taxonomy including “mammals, birds, amphibians, sharks, reef-building corals, cycads and conifers as well as reptiles, fishes and selected groups of plants and invertebrates.” The IUCN deems itself “The Barometer of Life.” The IUCN has no legislative power and serves as a global data pool for other conservation oriented organizations.
In the United States, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) red list does have legislative power that is executed through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The USFWS is responsible for listing terrestrial and some marine species, and the NMFS lists marine species.
“Once a species is listed, the agencies work toward legally prohibiting “take” (killing, capturing, etc.), protecting critical habitat, and developing and implementing recovery plans for listed species (Schwartz 2008).”
“The ESA has the power to stop development that will impact imperiled species. Hence there are more consequences and political obstacles to listing species under the ESA compared to lists that are not legally binding. In short, the ESA is arguably the world’s most effective biodiversity protection law. The act has succeeded in improving the conservation status of most listed species over time, and may have prevented 227 extinctions (Taylor et al. 2005; Schwartz 2008).” see source
Even though there have been no known studies to determine how broad the ESA’s coverage of species is compared to the IUCN Red List, J.B.C. Harris et al. did state in their Conservation Letters, that a quick evaluation showed that the ESA list is not as comprehensive as the IUCN Red List.
Since 1966 when the plight of the whooping crane prompted the Endangered Species Preservation Act in the US, the USFWS and the NMFS have listed 1,995 species as “endangered.” The Federal government is expected to review the status of the species listed as “endangered” or “threatened” every five years. Despite this expectation, the Feds lag behind and many of the species listed are never downgraded or removed from the list. This causes tremendous litigation and cost on the part of land owners when Federal agencies swoop in and demand restoration of ‘said’ protected species.
Fortunately, the Pacific Legal Foundation is responding to this egregious “dragging of feet” on the part of the Feds. They are going to court to make sure that this “5-year review” rule is being enforced.
“It was in 2008 that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that the wood stork, a bird in Central and South Florida, was no longer “endangered.”
USFWS “ignored its own study.”
“Representing the Florida Homebuilders Association, [the PLF] threatened to sue if the wood stork’s “endangered” listing [wasn’t] dropped.”
Ultimately, the status of the wood stork was classified as “threatened.” Alan DeSerio, managing attorney with PLF’s Atlantic Center office in Stuart, Florida stated:
“Ultimately, our goal is removing unnecessary wood stork regulations altogether, to end unjustified restrictions on productive use of private property.”
Sustainable development seeks to establish a balance between environmental protection and economic development that meets a prescribed ‘quality of life’. The legislative power of the ESA is being used by promoters of sustainable development to achieve this balance and to advance environmental, economic and social justice.
To learn about which species in your area have been targeted by the IUCN Red List go to their website. The search parameters on the IUCN Red List website are intensive and might be intimidating to most but if you follow the instructions on the You Tube video below, you will achieve your mission.
Video on How to Search the Red List