The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Derek Goldman, Endangered Species Coalition
(406) 370-6491
Tara Thornton, Endangered Species Coalition
(207) 268-2108

104 Citizens Groups Criticize Anti-Democratic Rulemaking

Bush Administration to Cripple Endangered Species Act With Little Public Input, Oversight


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
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
, 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

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.

The Endangered Species Coalition's mission is to stop the human-caused extinction of our nation's at-risk species, to protect and restore their habitats, and to guide these fragile populations along the road to recovery.