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Naughty, naughty: The Bush administration has launched what Salon calls a "stealth attack" on U.S. endangered species, couched among glory shots of Michael Phelps' Olympic-history-making victory, the runup to the presidential conventions and the hotly anticipated Obama vs. McCain showdown, and the whirl of last-minute summer vacays.
"I have been working on the Endangered Species Act for 15 years and have never seen such a sneaky attack," John Kostyack, executive director of wildlife conservation and global warming at the National Wildlife Federation, tells the online rag.
The offending proposal, first reported by the AP, wants to nix the participation of biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service in decisions by federal agencies who are evaluating projects that could harm endangered plants and animals.
By making third-party scientists persona non grata, officials at agencies such as the Forest Service, the Minerals Management Service, and the Department of Transportation essentially get free rein to green-light projects like new timber allotments, mining projects, or roads that could harm endangered species. The sticking point: Many of these agencies don't even have biologists on staff to qualify these determinations, a fact that could well undermine what the Endangered Species Act (ESA) set out to accomplish when it was first established—to protect our imperiled critters from nogoodnik suits with unenvironmental agendas.
According to Salon:
The proposal presents a conflict of interest, which could effectively gut the Endangered Species Act, by asking the very agencies the act regulates to also enforce it. ...
If the new regulation is approved by the Department of the Interior in the next couple of months, it would undercut the authority of the Endangered Species Act. "With this change, the Bush administration threatens to undo more than 30 years of progress," said Kostyack. "This move is consistent with other efforts by the administration to cement industry-friendly policies before leaving office in January." ...
In 2008, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a memorandum documenting an audit of how well those agencies regulated themselves. The result: Without the oversight of Fish and Wildlife, the agencies violated the Endangered Species Act 62 percent of the time.
Of course, the Department of the Interior insists that the new regulation would not so much as ding the ESA, since the power to do so lies with Congress, and that federal agencies that don't comply with the ESA will be taken to task.
Then again, this is the same agency that recently said that greenhouse-gas emissions are exempt from regulation under the ESA, stating that the "proposed rule is consistent with the FWS [Fish and Wildlife Service] current understanding it is not possible to draw a direct causal link" between the fate of a species, such as the polar bear, and greenhouse-gas emissions...which is pretty much news to us.
More roughshod over the ESA:
AP Reports Proposal to Drastically Alter Endangered Species Act
Delaying Tactics Put U.S. Wildlife in Hot Water
Endangered Species List is Itself Endangered
America Celebrates Endangered Species Day
A Bush Administration Policy Adjustment