Ruling restores vital role of wildlife experts in forest fire planning
WASHINGTON (Feb. 7, 2012) – The U.S. District Court of D.C. struck down Bush administration regulations yesterday that would have allowed National Fire Plan projects to move forward without consulting the government’s own wildlife experts. Defenders initially challenged the regulations in 2006, arguing that the regulations violated long-standing Endangered Species Act procedures that help protect the environment and imperiled wildlife.
The following is a statement from Mike Senatore, vice president of conservation law for Defenders of Wildlife:
“The U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies should consult wildlife experts when considering projects that might affect endangered and threatened wildlife. That’s the simple proposition behind one of the most critical provisions of the Endangered Species Act. But the Bush administration ignored the opinion of its own scientific experts and tried to brush aside this common sense and legally mandated requirement. Regional wildlife directors knew it was wrong, environmental advocates knew it was wrong, and the American people knew it was wrong. Now a federal judge has finally thrown out these ill-conceived regulations, upholding our nation’s commitment to protecting imperiled wildlife. This decision makes it clear that the existing consultation process already allows for timely and effective forest fire planning without discarding vital wildlife protections.”
The Endangered Species Act requires that federal agencies consult with experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to determine the impacts of their actions on endangered and threatened wildlife. Regulations issued by the Bush administration in 2003 altered this legal duty to severely limit the role of wildlife experts when considering projects under the National Fire Plan. Similar regulations to short-circuit the consultation process for registration of pesticides were previously overturned by another federal court. A much broader Bush administration policy that essentially eliminated all consultation requirements was issued at the end of 2008 but was promptly withdrawn by the Obama administration in 2009.
Defenders was represented in this case by Eric Glitzenstein of the law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein and Crystal.
Contact: John Motsinger, 202-772-0288, firstname.lastname@example.org 
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 .