Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy


Thomas Wheeler


Watson recognized 182 species, Babington 251, and Bentham only 112. Over 150 years since Darwin’s time, scientists continue to debate what constitutes a species. But while this uncertainty remains unchanged, the law has: the United States has committed to protect individual (endangered) species. What was once merely an academic dispute now carries legal weight under the Endangered Species Act (ESA): recognition of a species can trigger significant economic consequences and non-recognition can doom a species to extinction. This comment examines the scientific roots of taxonomic uncertainty, the legal landscape of the ESA, and the potential unforeseen consequences of the relationship between the two. To aid in this examination, this comment highlights the taxonomic uncertainty related to the killer whales of the Eastern North Pacific and the legal fight over their taxonomic status.

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Animal Law Commons



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