Bush Administration takes aim at Endangered Species Act

Proposed revisions to Act remove safety net and science; put species at risk of extinction

(08/12/2008) - The following is a statement by Bob Irvin, Senior Vice President for Conservation Programs at Defenders of Wildlife:

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday’s announcement by the Bush Administration regarding changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was a last-ditch effort by a near-extinct administration to impose the same fate on America’s endangered species.

The so-called “narrow revisions” are just wide enough to ensure that agencies can go ahead with projects without being subject to checks and balances, or consultation. This calculated and political decision leaves America’s most threatened species at the mercy of a wholly inadequate review process, with no requirement for a scientific understanding of the impact on affected species. In fact, many of the agencies now required to determine the impact of an action on a species do not even have biologists on staff.

By unilaterally allowing agencies to decide that consultation is not necessary, the burden of liability is placed wholly on the individual agencies, leaving them open to citizen suits. And, by putting a 60 day limit (subject to a 60 day extension by FWS) on completion of informal consultations, the proposal will increase the likelihood that harmful agency actions could slip through, again necessitating more citizen suits.

Secretary Dirk Kempthorne’s narrow definition of what actions would actually be subject to consultation means that consideration of the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on polar bears or other wildlife affected by global warming is completely off limits. This narrow definition will also affect all listed species and critical habitat from being protected from a host of indirect effects resulting from federal actions, permits, or funding.

Proposing these drastic changes with only five months to go in the administration is clearly an effort to secure changes that the administration has been unable to achieve through legislation. The concepts of self-consultation and deadlines that place the burden of delay on listed species protection were both key elements of the Pombo bill that died in the Senate. This is an egregious example of leaving the fox to guard the chicken coop.

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Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.  With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come.  For more information, visit www.defenders.org.

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Contact(s):

Erin McCallum, (202)772-3217; (610)207-5209