California Native Plant Society

Conservation Program

Endangered Species Acts (ESA & CESA)

The California Endangered Species Act (CESA) and the Federal Endangered Species Act (FESA) are among our most important tools in the fight to conserve and restore California's native biological diversity. CNPS fights to strengthen and enforce these laws in the State Legislature, Congress, with the agencies, in the courts, and on the ground.

Issues Statement

The California Endangered Species Act (CESA) and the Federal Endangered Species Act (FESA) are among our most important tools in the fight to conserve and restore California's native biological diversity. Several CNPS programs actively participate in interpreting and enforcing these laws. Our Legislation Program works in the California Legislature to improve and clarify the CESA and to defend the law against attempts to weaken or destroy it. At the Federal level, our Conservation and Land Management Programs perform the same functions for the FESA. The CNPS Rare Plant Program maintains information on all rare plant species in California, provides management recommendations to the resource protection agencies that implement the laws, and works with CNPS Chapters and others to propose imperiled rare plants for protection under the CESA and the FESA. The CNPS Education Program works to dispel misconceptions that undermine the effectiveness of these laws and to disseminate information on California's rare species to schools and the public. The Conservation Program and CNPS chapters also enforce both FESA and CESA at the project level and in the courts. We work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Game and other agencies to encourage scientifically rigorous and effective management of rare species and habitats. We also challenge of illegal attempts to destroy listed species and their habitats.

One of the most significant aspects of CNPS work is our fight to secure equal protection for plants under Endangered Species laws. Few people realize that the FESA provides almost no protection for Federally listed plants that do not live on Federal lands such as National Forests or National Parks. This is in contrast to Federally listed animals which are legally protected from harm no matter where they occur. It is in fact legal to intentionally drive Federally listed plants to extinction in some circumstances. CNPS has launched the Equal Protection for Plants Campaign whose goal is to obtain changes to Federal law so that plants receive the same protections as animals do. At the State level, plants are protected as animals are, but ambiguous language in the CESA has encouraged some property rights advocates to challenge this protection. CNPS is working with State law enforcement and resource protection agencies and with the State legislature to clarify that plants are fully protected under the CESA.

Critical Habitat Campaign

Under the FESA, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has the obligation to designate Critical Habitat for species that are listed as threatened or endangered. The California Native Plant Society and the Center for Biological Diversity sued FWS November 15, 2001 asking that the agency designate critical habitat. Click here for more information.

Additional Information

Federal Endangered Species Act - It Works! (PDF, 234k)

CNPS statement supporting CESA over NPPA (PDF, 38k)

CESA and Plant Protection -- This primer will help you to understand how to use the new California Endangered Species Act to protect rare plant species in your area.

California Listed Threatened and Endangered Plants are Protected Under the California Endangered Species Act -- Reprinted from the California Land Use Law & Policy Reporter, September 1999 (PDF, 219k)

CNPS Equal Protection for Plants Campaign -- Did you know that plants are afforded almost no protection under the Federal Endangered Species Act?

CNPS Manual on the HCP-NCCP Process (PDF, 0.98 MB)

CNPS comment letter on proposal to revise procedures for designating critical habitat under the Federal Endangered Species Act (pdf, 08/12/99, 40k)

CNPS comment letter on the "Draft Addendum to the Final Handbook for Habitat Conservation Planning and Incidental Take Permitting Process" (PDF, 5/7/99, 81k)

Species Protection: Economic Issues, Myths and Facts (PDF, 10/13/97, 28k)

ESA/CESA Web Links


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