Recommendations for Improving Recovery Criteria under the US Endangered Species Act


Recovery criteria, the thresholds mandated by the Endangered Species Act that define when species may be considered for downlisting or removal from the endangered species list, are a key component of conservation planning in the United States. We recommend improvements in the definition and scientific justification of recovery criteria, addressing both data-rich and data-poor situations. We emphasize the distinction between recovery actions and recovery criteria and recommend the use of quantitative population analyses to measure the impacts of threats and to explicitly tie recovery criteria to population status. To this end, we provide a brief tutorial on the legal and practical requirements and constraints of recovery criteria development. We conclude by contrasting our recommendations with other alternatives and by describing ways in which academic scientists can contribute productively to the planning process and to endangered species recovery.




Doak, Daniel F., Gina K. Himes Boor, Victoria J. Bakker, William F. Morris, Allison Louthan, Scott A. Morrison, Amanda Stanley, and Larry B. Crowder. "Recommendations for Improving Recovery Criteria under the US Endangered Species Act." BioScience 65, no. 2 (February 2015): 189-199. DOI:
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