Endangered Species List is Itself Endangered

The good news: the bald eagle is finally making a comeback. The bad news: it's only one of several hundred endangered species doing so. Due in large part to legal and political meddling, the Bush administration has earned the dubious merit of adding the fewest number of species to the endangered list in the past six years than any other administration since 1973.

As a result, there is now a waiting list of 279 species on the edge of extinction and, out of the 1,326 already officially listed species, approximately 200 are close to total extinction. Furthermore, the Bush administration has removed 15 species from the list to date, a higher number than any previous administration. "It's wonderful the bald eagle is recovering — one of the most charismatic and best funded species ever," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who now works for Defenders of Wildlife. "But what's happening with the other species? This administration has starved the endangered species' budget. It has dismantled and demoralized its staff." The assistant director of endangered species for the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bryan Arroyo, acknowledged the gap but defended the agency's reluctance to list new species by claiming that
"We have a national deficit, and we are in the midst of a war. We have to live within the president's budget." Tellingly, out of the 58 species the Bush administration has recently added to the list, 54 were added in response to pending litigation.

Not surprisingly, an internal report by the Interior Department's inspector general revealed heavy infighting amongst the ranks of the endangered-species staff and a watering down of prior enforcements and provisions by Bush appointees favorable to industries that have opposed the legislation. Defending the agency's decision to ease restrictions, Arroyo argued that species protection "started as a heavy-handed regulatory program. If you tally the cost of implementing every recovery program now in place, it would cost billions of dollars — and the program will never have that much funding." The best way to protect endangered species, he went on, was to work with private landowners and encourage them to conserve wildlife through "grants" and "technical assistance."

With the type of tortured logic that Arroyo employs to explain away the Bush administration's decision to slash funding for the Fish and Wildlife Service (essentially: "well we had too much money and weren't doing a great job to begin with, so we should cut spending to improve matters"), it's no surprise that things have gotten as bad as they now are. While it was certainly encouraging to see the majestic bald eagle make its triumphant return, there are hundreds of other species on the edge that desperately need our protection. Keep in mind that for every one species we hear making a comeback, there are probably at least a handful that falter into extinction and complete obscurity.

Via ::The Los Angeles Times: Critics say species list is endangered (newspaper)

See also: ::Bad, Bad Environmentalists, ::Biologists Defend the Endangered Species Act

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