Bush Administration Attack on Endangered Species Meets Fierce Resistance

For Immediate Release

Earthjustice
Contact: 

Janette Brimmer, Earthjustice Seattle (206) 343-7340

Bush Administration Attack on Endangered Species Meets Fierce Resistance

Groups file opposition comments on rule that would allow "self-consultation"

SEATTLE, Wa. - With less than four months to go before leaving office the Bush
administration has proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act that
would end mandatory review by independent federal scientists. Under the
proposed Bush rule, government agencies would be given the authority to
"self-consult" when seeking approval for projects that could harm rare
and threatened wildlife or their habitat. This plan would erase
essential checks and balances between government agencies that have
worked effectively for 35 years.

A coalition of conservation and public health groups represented by
Earthjustice submitted comments today opposing this rule change. Those
groups include: Conservation Northwest, Endangered Species Coalition,
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Institute for
Fisheries Resources, Sierra Club, Conservation Law Foundation, Oregon
Wild, Washington Toxics Coalition, and The Mountaineers.

Statement by Earthjustice attorney Janette Brimmer:

"The vigilance of conservation, fishing, and hunting groups has held
the line against the Bush administration attacks on endangered species
for eight long years. This proposed rule change is obviously a Hail
Mary pass to industry friends in the final days of the Bush
administration and it will fail."

Summary of comment letter:

*       The ESA's primary purpose of protecting species and their
habitat is grounded in precautionary measures and directives designed
to always give the benefit of the doubt to the imperiled species. The
law does this by requiring the input of the fish and wildlife experts
and requiring the use of the best available science to make sure that
federal government agencies don't inadvertently do something that
jeopardizes endangered species.

*       The new proposed rule change abandons a precautionary approach
in favor of a "full steam ahead" default position on government actions
that may affect species.

*       The proposed rule change is designed to allow and encourage
federal government agencies to make inexpert decisions--to basically
consult with themselves--and find that their actions have "no effect"
on threatened or endangered species. In the process, this
self-consultation cuts the fish and wildlife scientific experts out of
the decision.

*       The proposed rule change will no longer require best available
science from the experts because it declares that the benefit of the
doubt now goes to government agencies, not species and encourages
agencies to ignore situations where an animal is in trouble from many
contributing factors. Now, in order for the endangered species to even
get the protection of consultation with the experts, there has to be
some high level of proof of actual harm to the species wholly caused by
the government action in question.

*       The self-consultation that is the result of this proposed rule
has already been soundly rejected by a federal district court in
Washington Toxics Coalition v. Secretary of Interior, 457 F.Supp.2d.
1158 (W.D. Wash. 2006).

*       One of the more insidious aspects of the new proposal is the
use of global warming and it complexities as an "excuse" for this much
more far-reaching attack on the ESA.

*       There are numerous examples (included in the comment letter)
that show agencies should not self-consult as they often lack the
expertise necessary to fully understand and protect against harm to
endangered species and they are too often focused on their primary
mission to the detriment of fish and wildlife.

Read the comments here:
http://www.earthjustice.org/library/legal_docs/comments-esa-rule-change.pdf

 

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