The Endangered Species Act, American democracy, and an omnibus role for public policy
AdvisorKrausman, Paul R.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe goal of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is to conserve species and their ecosystems. The ESA has become a target for weakening and elimination. To analyze the ESA, I employed policy design theory, which states that American public policy is supposed to serve democracy while solving specific problems. Policy design analysis begins with a critique of a policy's logical framework. I identified 13 incorrect assumptions made by the authors of the ESA. Those mistakes do not prevent productive execution of the ESA, but they may result in the extinction of some species. I conducted a nationwide mail survey and found that the social construction of plants, birds, and mammals is more positive than all other species types. Birds have the most political power held in trust by humans. The allocation of ESA benefits is consistent with a model accounting for social construction and political power. Based on the ratio of construction:benefits, those concerned with species conservation may be most productive by focusing their political efforts on plants and amphibians. The ESA is technically criticized for taxonomic prioritization. However, functional genome size, molecular clock speed, and phylogenetic distance are often overlooked. With those factors considered, the taxonomic distinctions of ESA are technically legitimate. The ESA is consistent with the principles of democracy; i.e., equality, freedom of information, public participation, majority rule, and representation. My survey indicates that democracy is valued higher than species conservation, economic growth, and property rights, but no higher than ecosystem health. None of these institutions are valued as high as resources for posterity. A strong majority want ESA unchanged or strengthened, and laws that eliminate habitat degrading subsidies and promote stable populations are desired. The ESA is a logical, technically legitimate, and democratic public policy. I recommend correcting for the incorrect assumptions of the ESA authors, and that policy design theory supplement democracy with ecosystem health as an omnibus role for public policy. However, an assessment of the causes of species endangerment indicates that all conservation efforts are ultimately moot, unless economic growth is abandoned as a national goal, and replaced with a steady state economy.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Renewable Natural Resources