Sometimes it can seem like the government can't do a thing whether they pass a law or not, but that's not always the case!
In the '60s and '70s, Congress passed a set of laws to get endangered animals OFF the endangered list. Guess what? It worked!
So, let's reflect on the progress we've made in 40+ years! Especially when that progress can be shown via adorable (and, when possible, baby) animals.
What still exists thanks to laws? Well...
1. Bald eagles
In 1962, there were only a little more than 400 eagles left (?!?!). This was because DDT (a chemical used to control pests) was thinning their eggshells, their wetland habitats were disappearing, and people were actually hunting them (holy moly).
But we've come a long way, baby! DDT was eventually banned, and a lot was done to protect the eagles in their natural habitat. In 2007, the American bald eagle was *removed* from the endangered species list ... meaning over 11,000 were counted zipping majestically through the clouds!
Not cute enough yet?
p.s. Did you know a baby eagle is called an eaglet?
"Thank you for saving me, and let freedom ring! I hope to grow up to inspire millions and be in commercials maybe." — Baby Bald Eagle
If you want more info, you can read up on all the details at this site by the Center for Biological Diversity.
2. Grizzly bears
While their natural homes were disappearing, grizzly bears were also being killed (again?) and having major problems with their food chain. By 1975, there were just over 1,000 bears total — down from 50,000 grizzlies in the 1880s! But, thanks to the Endangered Species Act, they were eventually removed from the endangered species list in 2010.
"Don't mess with my mom, and tell Stephen Colbert I say hiiiii." — Baby Grizzly Bear, who's so hip she knows that Stephen Colbert doesn't trust bears
For more info on how it all happened, here's a link.
UPDATE: While grizzlies are off the endangered list, they are still extremely threatened. We found this out because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service emailed us about it! There are some interesting complexities related to the Yellowstone population, but FWS says all grizzlies in the lower 48 states retain threatened status at this time (check out information on recovery areas from the FWS). You can see the official status of the grizzly bear (and any other federally listed species) by searching the FWS Environmental Conservation Online System (ECOS). Stay vigilant!
3. American alligator
People were hunting them AND their habitats were disappearing (notice a theme yet?), but when they were put on the endangered species list in 1967, things started improving. For example, with Florida alligators, the population went from just 350 in 1975 to 2,085 as of 2005.
"Hello, friend. I'm glad you're OK." — Me, talking to this tiny baby alligator
Here's a bit more info on alligator numbers.
4. Utah prairie dog
Livestock and agriculture were getting in the way (and actively poisoning) these pesky yet adorable lil' guys. Not to be * dramatic*, but the population was down to just over 3,000 in 1972! As of 2010, it's back up to over 11,000.
Teeny hands! Weird nails!
"DUN DUN DUNnnnn" — Dramatic Prairie Dog
*BONUS NON-ANIMAL FLORA RESCUE*
5. Tennessee coneflower
Residential and recreational development were threatening this naturally rare (it only lives in cedar glades) wildflower's life! But they're back, and ain't they pretty!
Check out the natural beauty of the Tennessee Smoky Mountains webcam, where many of these flowers live. Sometimes I look at it and feel calmed by the majesty of nature.
More info on the dangerous life of the Tennessee coneflower here.
Now, I know many of you — myself included — might say to yourselves, "Who cares about a flower or a pesky prairie dog? There are much HUGER PROBLEMS happening!"
But that's the thing — seeing that Congress was able to pass an act and work together with states and local government gives me hope.
If we can save a flower or a baby alligator, we can save ... America!
Why not? I know it's cheesy, but it makes me feel better.