Working paper on the completeness, timeliness, and age of recovery plans for ESA-listed species.
Abstract: Recovery planning is an essential part of implementing the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) because explicit planning helps identify and address the key threats to listed species. Despite the importance of recovery planning, it is generally acknowledged that reaching a “final” plan takes far longer than the goal of 2-1/2 years from the time of listing. But the extent of planning (number of species with recovery plans) and time required for planning has not been evaluated for over a decade. Using data from all domestic ESA-listed species, we quantify basic characteristics of ESA recovery planning. We show that 1/4 of listed species lack recovery plans; the average recovery plan has taken >5 years to be developed after listing; and the recovery plans that have been written are nearly 20 years old on average. These results are not unexpected for agencies that have seen dwindling budgets and more species to protect, but they highlight the need to improve recovery planning so that ESA-listed species can benefit. Defenders proposes that these challenges can be addressed, in part, by moving to web-based, dynamic recovery plans that can improve efficiency in plan development and improve effectiveness by providing timely information.
NOTE: This working paper is the precursor to our preprint on the recovery plan review.