State Laws for Endangered and Threatened Species: Tale of the River Otter

March 20, 2023



NCEL Point of Contact

Kate Burgess
Conservation Program Manager


With one-third of our nation’s wildlife at risk of extinction, and the impacts of climate change accelerating, now is a critical time to improve the ways in which we protect our natural heritage. States are key in preventing this continued loss of biodiversity and in ensuring the availability of natural resources for future generations.

State endangered species laws are one tool that can help slow species extinction. These laws can vary from one provision, to a scattered set of laws, to an act specifically crafted to provide comprehensive protection to endangered and threatened species.

Strong state action can help prevent federal listings, provide additional resources to federally-listed species protection efforts, and promote regional and ecosystem-wide cooperation. States are also particularly well-situated to address species loss, as they possess local knowledge and expertise to steward endangered plant and animal species within their borders.

The goal of NCEL’s report, “A Natural Legacy: Strengthening State Laws for Endangered and Threatened Species,” is to highlight what is and isn’t working across states and to spotlight innovative case studies of species recovery. Actions taken before a species becomes endangered can also save the lives of individual species, in addition to saving considerable money, time, and effort. The below StoryMap takes an in depth look at one state endangered species, the river otter, and how state laws facilitated its recovery.

To learn more about how state laws can protect threatened and endangered species, check out NCEL’s latest report: “A Natural Legacy: Strengthening State Laws for Endangered and Threatened Species.”