Journal of Mathematical Biology

, Volume 71, Issue 4, pp 817–846 | Cite as

Bioeconomic analysis supports the endangered species act

  • Kehinde R. SalauEmail author
  • Eli P. Fenichel


The United States Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted to protect and restore declining fish, wildlife, and plant populations. The ESA mandates endangered species protection irrespective of costs. This translates to the restriction of activities that harm endangered populations. We discuss criticisms of the ESA in the context of public land management and examine under what circumstance banning non-conservation activity on multiple use federal lands can be socially optimal. We develop a bioeconomic model to frame the species management problem under the ESA and identify scenarios where ESA-imposed regulations emerge as optimal strategies. Results suggest that banning harmful activities is a preferred strategy when valued endangered species are in decline or exposed to poor habitat quality. However, it is not optimal to sustain such a strategy in perpetuity. An optimal plan involves a switch to land-use practices characteristic of habitat conservation plans.


Endangered species act Public land Resource management Mathematical bioeconomics Dynamic optimization  Allee effect 

Mathematics Subject Classification

49J15 49J30 91B32 91B76 92D30 92B05 



Josh Abbott, Rick Horan and the ECOSERVICES group at Arizona State University provided helpful comments on early drafts of this manuscript. KRS was partially supported by the Alfred P. Sloan foundation, the More Graduate Education at Mountain States Alliance (MGE@MSA), Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) [National Science Foundation (NSF) Cooperative Agreement No. HRD-0450137], and the NSF Alliance for faculty diversity postdoctoral fellowship [NSF Grant DMS-0946431]. The regular disclaimers apply.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MathematicsThe University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Yale School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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