The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has long been known as the “pit bull” of federal environmental laws because of the inflexibility of its mission to protect all species listed under the Act, regardless of cost or impact on human activities. The law makes it a felony to “take” any species listed as endangered or threatened. The extremely broad interpretation of “take” includes activity to “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any of these activities.” The scope of a take finding extends to both intentional and non-intentional activity. 

For decades, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) focused its implementation of the ESA on federal lands and thus had little impact on Texas. This has changed over the last 10 years as the FWS has lengthened its listing of protected species on private land and water resources.