Have a Comment about the New ESA Rules? Sorry, Not Interested

talk to the hand photo
Sure, the Fish and Wildlife Service is interested in reading your comments about the Bush administration's latest gutting of the Endangered Species Act -- just not that interested. In what will likely come as no surprise to long time readers of this blog, the Bush White House has once again decided that, given the choice, it would rather not listen to your lily-livered, tree-hugging blatherings, thank you very much. That is, unless you're willing to deliver them by snail mail.

Unbeknownst to me and, I would imagine, the many of you who gave up on this administration's so-called "environmental" initiatives a long time ago, the Fish and Wildlife Service suddenly decided to stop accepting public comments on proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act last December. Andrew Wetzler, the director of NRDC's Endangered Species Project, noticed this earlier today when he was poring over the text of the administration's newest proposal to sabotage the ESA. Here's the passage that caught his eye:

"ADDRESSES: Submit your comments or materials concerning this proposed rule in one of the following ways:

(1) Through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions on the website for submitting comments.

(2) By U.S. mail or hand-delivery to Public Comment Processing, Attention: 1018-AT50, Division of Policy and Directives Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 222, Arlington, VA 22203. We will not accept e-mail or faxes. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section below for more information)."

As he notes, it's standard practical for federal agencies to accept comments by e-mail or fax (heck, even the EPA is still doing it). The Fish and Wildlife Service's unexpected move could have something to do with the fact that, as Wetzler points out, it received over 600,000 comments last year when it was considering listing the polar bear as an endangered species. Given the White House's own, shall we say, reluctance to open its e-mails, I wouldn't be surprised if this was part of a broader push by the administration to squelch any opposition to its last-minute proposals.

But maybe I'm overreacting. A commenter remarked that, like many other federal agencies, the Fish and Wildlife Service is in the process of migrating its operations to a new system (http://www.regulations.gov); so while it may not be publishing the comments, it is still accepting them. Maybe so -- but in light of this administration's past track record, and its current effort to ram through major changes to the ESA with minimal input from the public, I can't help but feel a bit skeptical.

Whether you agree with my paranoid rantings or not, I don't think I'm going out on too much of a limb when I say that this would fit in perfectly with the Bush administration's pattern of dissembling and obfuscation. As Wetzler put it:

Regardless of the reason, one thing is clear to me. The combination of (1) no e-mail comments; (2) a miserly 30-day comment period; and (3) no public hearings signals loud and clear that the Fish and Wildlife Service is not interested in listening to the public—especially about controversial moves like their proposal to fundamentally change the way wildlife is protected under the Endangered Species Act—they are interested in ramming through predetermined results.

Image from greefus groinks
More ESA shenanigans
::Delaying Tactics Put U.S. Wildlife in Hot Water
::Endangered Species List is Itself Endangered

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