Volume 85, Number 1

April 2010

Improving the Protection of Species Endangered in the United States by Revising the Distinct Population Segment Policy

Allison L. Westfahl Kong

While one primary goal of the Endangered Species Act is to prevent the global extinction of species, it is less clear whether the Act is intended, and can be used, to protect species that are endangered solely within the United States. Although the global preservation of species may be sufficient to achieve many of the goals of the Endangered Species Act, some goals may only be completely served by ensuring that certain populations of species occur within the United States, even if the animals are abundant elsewhere. The current Distinct Population Segment Policy being used by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine whether to list domestic populations of species as threatened or endangered only allows the agencies to protect these population segments if they are significant to the species’ taxon as a whole. This Note argues that this policy should be changed because there are many compelling reasons to protect domestic populations of particular species, even if these species are abundant elsewhere, and suggests criteria that should be used to determine whether a particular population segment should be protected, including the species’ conservation status and importance to the American people. It also demonstrates that this proposal would be consistent with the goals of the Endangered Species Act.