The Codex of the Endangered Species Act Volume I and Volume II

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) is one of the most cherished and reviled laws ever passed. It mandates protection and preservation of all the nation’s species and biodiversity, whatever the cost. It has been a lightning rod for controversy and conflicts between industry/business and environmentalists.

The year 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the ESA. It is also another year in an ongoing crisis of biodiversity loss, species extinctions, climate change, and natural disasters. Conservationist, environmental historian, author, and attorney Lowell E. Baier brings to life the stark choice that now faces America and the world: act to save our vanishing natural world or risk the consequences.

This is not a hopeless choice. Through a combination of original research spanning the history of American wildlife conservation and the last 50 years of the ESA; new research and bold proposals for the future of the ESA; and a year-long series of events, Baier is joined by over two dozen ESA scholars, practitioners, and policy experts with a bold vision for the future of the ESA and wildlife conservation in America.

The Codex of the Endangered Species Act Volume I: The First 50 Years

By Lowell E. Baier with Christopher E. Segal

We cannot know today’s challenges and opportunities without understanding their histories. This book is the most comprehensive history of the ESA ever published, and the first to consider the entire history of the law from all angles in a single volume.

The ESA is not a static law. It continuously evolves under the influence of Congress as it makes amendments, courts as they interpret and apply the law, and successive presidential administrations, as they each bring their own goals and priorities to it. This book tells the story of the ESA in two ways. Part I provides a chronological overview of the ESA, from its earliest roots in past centuries of American wildlife conservation through the present.

Baier explains how the ESA grew from the environmental crises and citizen activism of the 1960s and ‘70s. Thereafter, the history of the ESA has been one of increasing impact, complexity, and controversy. Growing pains around species such as the snail darter and the northern spotted owl revealed that wildlife conservation is more controversial than expected, and the Supreme Court declared that Congress intended for the U.S. government to save all species at any cost. In the 1990s, as our national politics descended into partisanship and legislative gridlock, the ESA became a political football, and thereafter all significant changes to the law have been regulatory in nature, rather than legislative.

Yet this has not stopped the ESA from growing in effectiveness and flexibility.  Part II of the book is organized around contemporary themes in application of the ESA. Baier’s examination of the work – and potential – of state governments and federalism reveals where much recent conflict comes from – and offers hope for its resolution. The judicial history of the ESA explains its role within our constitutional republic.

The book further explores the successful environmental impact of the ESA. By understanding the record of recovery and delisting of species, we can see where the ESA has been a success and where it has struggled. Collaborative conservation of species and their ecosystems offers both an alternative to the ESA and a path forward for listed species. Finally, the ongoing biodiversity crisis itself presents not just a challenge, but an opportunity.

This book is not only a history, but a call to action. It will take more conservation, more funding, and more innovative solutions if we are to save our wildlife and biodiversity. It will take the engagement to every American to muster the collective will to meet this challenge. The hope is that we will be able to look back and say that we accomplished more in the second 50 years of the ESA than we did in the first.

The Codex of the Endangered Species Act, Volume I: The First 50 Years:

  • Is the most comprehensive history of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 ever written, covering all 50 years of the law’s history in a single volume.
  • Includes a chronological history of wildlife conservation in the United States, from the earliest days of the American colonies to the present.
  • Examines the Endangered Species Act in the context of congressional legislation, judicial rulings, and administrative actions, showing how each affects the others and they together drive the evolution and application of the ESA on an on-going basis.
  • Provides a historiographic analysis of the Endangered Species Act, based on first-hand interviews with all of the men who originally conceived and wrote the law and dozens of the men and women who thereafter implemented the law, interacted with the law, and worked to conserve fish and wildlife within the world created by the ESA.
  • Includes a series of chapters that explore contemporary issues for the ESA, which can be read together with the chronological history or on their own in the classroom, including:
    • The role of federalism in the ESA, and in wildlife management more generally, exploring the origins of contemporary state-federal conflicts and specific solutions for a more collaborative future.
    • The foundations of the ESA in the U.S. Constitution, and the judicial cases that have defined and interpreted it.
    • The record of the ESA in recovering and delisting species, including case studies that show how an effective recovery program is designed, and the partners that must be engaged.
    • The history of collaborative conservation, especially the recent expansion of landowner-led collaboratives, and the potential for collaborative approaches such as Conservation Without Conflict to leverage greater local, public involvement into greater financial resources and greater community buy-in, in turn resulting in reduced conflict, litigation, and waste, and more effective conservation of threatened, endangered, and at-risk species.
    • The intersection of endangered species with biodiversity, the need to conserve both for the welfare of the planet and its people (including the importance of foods and medicines found in or derived from nature), and the urgency of developing a more engaged public with a better understanding of the relevance of endangered species and biodiversity to their daily lives and future wellbeing.
  • Combines deeply-sourced research with a highly-readable narrative, provides an introduction to the ESA suitable for academic settings, policy makers, and the general public.


Volume I

2024 Independent Press Award Winner in the category of Environment

2024 Independent Press Award Winner in the category of History: United States


The Codex of the Endangered Species Act Volume II: The Next 50 Years

Edited by Lowell E. Baier, John F. Organ, and Christopher E. Segal

Just as the ESA has had a long and successful history, it also has a bright future. In this volume, over twenty-five expert authors, including ESA practitioners, scholars, and policy experts come together to prescribe a future path for a more effective, and less controversial, ESA. Their recommendations span the spectrum of available tools: legislative, regulatory, administrative, and voluntary. There is something for everyone in this book: if the ESA affects you, there is something that you, or your partners in the government and nonprofit communities, can do to resolve conflicts, complete objectives, and conserve wildlife.

The book explains the latest science and innovations in wildlife conservation, including in habitat management, species genetics, land use planning, and more. It brings to life the human element, drawing on the fields of human dimensions science, conflict-resolution, and collaborative conservation. It is a reference book for scientists, administrators, practitioners, Congress, and future presidential administrations to rely on going forward, providing a road map for the next 50 years of the Endangered Species Act.


Volume II

2024 Independent Press Award Winner in the category of Nature

2024 Independent Press Award Winner in the category of Environment


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