On December 28, 1973, President Nixon signed into law the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to protect species and the ecosystems on which they depend.
In a special message to Congress in 1972, President Nixon said:
While we share our environmental problems with all the people of the world, our industrial might, which has made us the leader among nations in terms of material well-being, also gives us the responsibility of dealing with environmental problems first among the nations.
Politico has more on the 39th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act:
On this date, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The legislation’s primary goal is to prevent the extinction of plant and animal life. It also seeks to restore the health and maintain the viability of endangered species by eliminating or lessening threats to their survival.
Beginning in the 1900s, the near-extinction of the bison population and the disappearance of the Passenger Pigeon, or Wild Pigeon, initially drove the call for wildlife conservation. At the time, “naturalists” killed birds and other wildlife to add to their personal collections or to install in museums. Habitat losses grew as communities and farmland expanded. Widespread use of pesticides and the introduction of non-native species also endangered wildlife.
Congress spent nearly a year negotiating a final bill, melding a stronger House version with a weaker Senate one. The House approved the measure on Dec. 20 by a vote of 355-4. It replaced a weaker 1969 statute that lacked penalties for killing endangered species.
The law was largely written by a team of lawyers and scientists that included the first head of the White House Office of Environmental Quality, Russell Train, who died on Sept. 17, 2012, at age 92.
The act is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which deals with marine species, and by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is responsible for freshwater fish and all other species. Species that occur in both habitats, such as sea turtles and Atlantic sturgeon, are jointly managed by both agencies.
The American Bald Eagle — designated the national symbol by the Second Continental Congress in 1782 — became one the first species to be placed on the endangered list. The protective umbrella proved successful: By 2007, the eagle population had recovered sufficiently to be removed from the list.