Does animal charisma influence conservation funding for vertebrate species under the US Endangered Species Act?

  • Alejandro M. BellonEmail author
Research Article


The US federal government spent 6 billion dollars to protect endangered species in 2013. The previous studies have shown that federal funding allocated under the Endangered Species Act is not necessarily based on the priority a species has been assigned by the Fish and Wildlife Service. This paper asks whether this continues to be the case using more recent data from 2013. It analyzes what factors affect total species funding by various federal agencies under the Endangered Species Act, and particularly examines the role of animal charisma using the number of Google results per species as a proxy. Results show that, while federal priority ranking had no effect on funding, charisma had a significant effect, suggesting biased funding for some species of animals.


Charisma Endangered species Funding Value Priority rank 



Endangered Species Act


Fish and Wildlife Service


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Ordinary Least Squares



I would like to thank P. Jefferson for the initial impulse which led to this paper as well as his feedback. I am also grateful to F. Carocciolo for providing econometric advice. Finally I would like to thank J. Lauderdale for comments and editing.


  1. Barnosky AD, Matzke N, Tomiya S, Wogan GO, Swartz B, Quental TB, Marshall C, McGuire JL, Lindsey EL, Maguire KC, Mersey B (2011) Has the Earth/’s sixth mass extinction already arrived? Nature 471(7336):51–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Blüthgen N, Simons NK, Jung K, Prati D, Renner SC, Boch S, Fischer M, Hölzel N, Klaus VH, Kleinebecker T, Tschapka M (2016) Land use imperils plant and animal community stability through changes in asynchrony rather than diversity. Nat Commun 7:10697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bollen KA, Jackman RW (1990) Regression diagnostics: an expository treatment of outliers and influential cases. Modern Methods Data Anal 13(4):257–291Google Scholar
  4. Bowen-Jones E, Entwistle A (2002) Identifying appropriate flagship species: the importance of culture and local contexts. Oryx 36(2):189–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Caro T (2010) Conservation by proxy: indicator, umbrella, keystone, flagship, and other surrogate species. Island Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  6. Cash D (1997) Science, politics, and environmental risk: regulatory decision-making in the US Endangered Species Act. JFK School of Government, Harvard University, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  7. Charisma [Def. 1]. (n.d.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 16 Oct 2018
  8. Dirzo R, Young HS, Galetti M, Ceballos G, Isaac NJ, Collen B (2014) Defaunation in the anthropocene. Science 345(6195):401–406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ducarme F, Luque GM, Courchamp F (2013) What are “charismatic species” for conservation biologists? BioSci Master Rev 10(2013):1–8Google Scholar
  10. Encyclopedia of Life. Available via Cited 30 Aug 2017
  11. Ferraro PJ, McIntosh C, Ospina M (2007) The effectiveness of the US endangered species act: an econometric analysis using matching methods. J Environ Econ Manag 54(3):245–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fortin D, Beyer HL, Boyce MS, Smith DW, Duchesne T, Mao JS (2005) Wolves influence elk movements: behavior shapes a trophic cascade in Yellowstone National Park. Ecology 86(5):1320–1330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gerber LR (2016) Conservation triage or injurious neglect in endangered species recovery. Proc Natl Acad Sci 113(13):3563–3566CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jann B (2010) robreg: Stata module providing robust regression estimators. Accessed 17 Aug 2017
  15. Levi T, Kilpatrick AM, Mangel M, Wilmers CC (2012) Deer, predators, and the emergence of Lyme disease. Proc Natl Acad Sci 109(27):10942–10947CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Lorimer J (2006) Non human charisma: which species trigger our emotions and why? Ecos-Br Assoc Nat Conserv 27(1):20Google Scholar
  17. Lowell N, Kelly RP (2016) Evaluating agency use of “best available science” under the United States Endangered Species Act. Biol Conserv 196:53–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lueck D, Michael JA (2003) Preemptive habitat destruction under the Endangered Species Act. J Law Econ 46(1):27–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Luther D, Skelton J, Fernandez C, Walters J (2016) Conservation action implementation, funding, and population trends of birds listed on the Endangered Species Act. Biol Conserv 197:229–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mahoney J (2009) What determines the level of funding for an endangered species? Major Themes in Economics. Cited 15 June 2017
  21. Metrick A, Weitzman ML (1996) Patterns of behavior in endangered species preservation. Land Econ 72:1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Metrick A, Weitzman ML (1998) Conflicts and choices in biodiversity preservation. J Econ Perspect 12(3):21–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Miller JK, Scott JM, Miller CR, Waits LP (2002) The endangered species act: dollars and sense? Bioscience 52(2):163–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (2012) Full Text of the Endangered Species Act. Cited 23 July 2017
  25. Norton BG (2014) The preservation of species. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  26. Restani M, Marzluff JM (2002) Funding extinction? Biological needs and political realities in the allocation of resources to endangered species recovery: an existing priority system, which should guide the Fish and Wildlife Service in endangered species recovery, is ineffective, and current spending patterns decrease long-term viability of island species. AIBS Bull 52(2):169–177Google Scholar
  27. Rolston H (1985) Duties to endangered species. Bioscience 35(11):718–726CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Schwartz MW (2008) The performance of the endangered species act. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 39:279–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Simon BM, Leff CS, Doerksen H (1995) Allocating scarce resources for endangered species recovery. J Policy Anal Manag 14(3):415–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. US Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) (2012) Report to congress on the recovery of threatened and endangered species fiscal year 2011–2012. Cited 09 Sept 2015
  31. US Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) (2013) Federal and State endangered and threatened species expenditures. Cited 06 June 2015
  32. U.S. Government Accountability Office (USGAO) (2005) Fish and Wildlife Service generally focuses recovery funding on high priority species, but needs to periodically assess its funding decisions. Cited 16 Aug 2017
  33. Valiente-Banuet A, Aizen MA, Alcántara JM, Arroyo J, Cocucci A, Galetti M, García MB, García D, Gómez JM, Jordano P, Medel R (2015) Beyond species loss: the extinction of ecological interactions in a changing world. Funct Ecol 29(3):299–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Willemen L, Cottam AJ, Drakou EG, Burgess ND (2015) Using social media to measure the contribution of Red List species to the nature-based tourism potential of African protected areas. PLoS One 10(6):e0129785CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Winter M, Devictor V, Schweiger O (2013) Phylogenetic diversity and nature conservation: where are we? Trends Ecol Evol 28(4):199–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Yohai VJ (1987) High breakdown-point and high efficiency robust estimates for regression. Ann Stat 15:642–656CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Yu C, Yao W (2017) Robust linear regression: a review and comparison. Commun Stat Simul Comput 46:6261–6282CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Environmental Economics and Policy Studies and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The School of Life Sciences at Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.Swarthmore CollegeSwarthmoreUSA
  3. 3.Arizona State University, Life Sciences A Wing #123TempeUSA

Personalised recommendations