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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
104 Citizens Groups Criticize Anti-Democratic Rulemaking
Bush Administration to Cripple Endangered Species Act With Little Public Input, Oversight
WASHINGTON - August 22 - Today, representatives from 104 conservation and scientific organizations representing millions of American's submitted a letter to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez calling for increased transparency and opportunities for public participation on a new rule proposal. The rule, published by the Bush administration in the federal register last week, would radically weaken the Endangered Species Act. The administration is only accepting public comment for 30 days.
"Rather than a narrow tweaking of the regulations, the proposal represents a back-door attack on the Endangered Species Act. The American people deserve and expect a full public process to vet such far-reaching changes to this landmark conservation law," said Leda Huta, Director of the Endangered Species Coalition.
The administration is also refusing to accept e-mail comments or hold public hearings on the proposed rule. Instead, comments will be accepted by mail, or through a government Web site that warns reviewers their personal information will be posted on the internet for public dissemination.
"It appears as if the administration is doing whatever it can to discourage participation in the democratic process," said John Kostyack, of the National Wildlife Federation. "I think we can expect more sneaky assaults like this on our public land and wildlife laws as this Administration heads for the exits."
The Associated Press, reporting on leaked documents, revealed last week that the Bush administration plans to weaken the Endangered Species Act. The proposed changes are intended to eliminate the requirement that federal agencies consult with independent wildlife experts and to prohibit consideration of the impacts of global warming on wildlife.
"The Bush administration proposal eliminates the critical checks and balances needed to protect imperiled birds and cuts species experts from the process of making decisions that need to be science-based," said Mike Daulton, with National Audubon Society.
"The Endangered Species Act is a safety net for our nation's wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction. The Bush administration's proposed regulations will cut a giant loophole in the safety net," said Bill Snape of the Center for Biological Diversity. "We have a responsibility to future generations to be good stewards and protect endangered species and the special places they call home."
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded last year that nearly one-third of plant and animal species on Earth are at an increased risk of extinction due to global warming.
"Animals on the brink of extinction need consideration and protection guided by the best experts in the federal government: US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service biologists," said Susan Holmes of Earthjustice.
The proposed regulatory changes came out in the eleventh hour of the Bush administration. The abbreviated timeline and restrictive commenting options raise serious concerns that the Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce is attempting to rewrite a bedrock environmental statute without allowing for adequate public involvement.
The proposed regulatory changes were published August 15, 2008, while Congress was out for recess and many Americans were enjoying the summer holiday.
Sean Cosgrove with the Conservation Law Foundation agrees, "For one of our nation's most important and successful environmental laws, the thirty-day comment period is woefully inadequate for the public to review and comment on this critical proposal."
The coalition is urging DOI and DOC to extend the comment period to 120 days, allowing the public adequate time to address the breadth and depth that these changes to the Endangered Species Act regulations will have on protecting our most imperiled wildlife.