Joe Roman


On his book Listed: Dispatches from America’s Endangered Species Act

Cover Interview of September 27, 2011

A close-up

In Listed, I examined a few high-profile species where there appeared to be a clear conflict between conservation and economics: the red-cockaded woodpecker that knocked down a city, a pair of endangered mussels that sucked Atlanta dry, the gray wolves that outhunted elk hunters.  What I found was that there was often benefits of species protection that came directly to local communities.

Let’s look at the conflict between Atlanta and the fat threeridge and purple bankclimber, two endangered mussels on the Apalachicola River.  As I mentioned, oysters, commercial fish, and even tupelo honey are dependent on the same waters that sustain these endangered species. The river supports 1,200 oystermen, 25 packinghouses, and hundreds of fishermen and beekeepers. 

In Yellowstone, one study found that wolves are now a $35-million-a-year tourist industry. In fact, Americans spend more than $120 billion a year hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching. That’s more than the Super Bowl. It’s more than professional football. It’s more than was spent on all spectator sports, amusement parks, casinos, bowling alleys, and ski slopes combined.

And it’s much more than just tourism.  When you protect dunes for endangered mice, you also protect the homes behind them from storms and erosion.  There are tradeoffs in all our policy decisions, of course, but endangered species should be seen as sentinels for a healthy environment and their protection can help all of us.