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Remember: Just because you claim to be upholding the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (presumably to preserve and manage said "fish and wildlife") doesn't mean you actually have to follow through with it -- at least if you're the Bush administration. In another sad, but predictable, turn of events, the federal agency tasked with protecting our wildlife has decided to cut by nearly half the habitat for the endangered peninsular bighorn sheep, as the LAT's Leslie Carson reports.
And, as befits an administration totally bent on secrecy and obfuscation, it has tentatively set the end of September as the deadline for approving the (probably) hastily drawn plan. Not surprisingly, it looks as though a few special interest groups, including some mining and tribal organizations, might have had some say in the decision. The bighorn had finally begun to show signs of recovery after 10 years of protection, say scientists.While the plan has not yet been "formally" approved, the outcome already seems predetermined, with one mining company having recently applied to expands its operations into territory once considered "critical" to the bighorn's recovery. Predictably, a spokeswoman from the Fish and Wildlife Service defended the (soon-to-be-approved) plan, claiming (with a straight face) that "Critical habitat is habitat considered essential for the recovery of the endangered species. It is not intended to include the entire range of a species." Get that?
But never fear: After dispensing that piece of wisdom, she was quick to add that the Secretary of the Interior would strongly consider setting more land aside if there was a "really pronounced economic impact" -- though she failed to elaborate on what "pronounced" exactly means.
So now we have a plan that would cut the bighorn's habitat by almost half and leave two populations isolated, with development allowed to proceed full steam into part of its former habitat. Good thing the bighorn can take it:
Bighorn sheep are easily disturbed by human activities, and are particularly susceptible to communicable diseases carried by pets and livestock. In the 1980s, De Forge said, 90% of lambs were dying from disease. From 1998 to 2001, 43% of lambs died from "urbanization," which includes automobile collisions, poisoning from ornamental plants, predation from increased coyote populations and illnesses caused by parasites that are common to residential development.
Not sure how many of these "endangered" species will be left by the time President Bush leaves office. I'd love to hear from any readers if they know of similar plans being drawn up for other species.
More about the Bush administration and endangered species
::AP Reports Proposal to Drastically Alter Endangered Species Act
::Gray Wolves Are Back on the Endangered List... For Now
::It's May 16th- Happy Endangered Species Day!