For Immediate Release
Bush Administration Sneak Attack on Endangered Species Act
Proposed Change to the Format of the List of Threatened and Endangered Species Could Sharply Limit Protection for Wildlife
WASHINGTON - The Center for Biological Diversity and dozens of other groups submitted comments today on another Bush administration attempt to weaken the Endangered Species Act that could severely limit protection for the nation's endangered species. The rule, which was proposed on August 5th and includes a very short public comment period, purports to be a mere amendment to "the formats of the lists of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants," but instead substantively redefines where species are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
"This eleventh hour sneak attack on the Endangered Species Act is much more than a formatting change," said Noah Greenwald, science director for the Center for Biological Diversity. "Instead, the change will limit protection of species to wherever they are found, which for a number of species will mean a zoo."
Under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to publish a list of endangered species in the federal register. The administration's proposal will modify the format of this list to create a new column titled "Where listed", and states the "'Where listed' column sets forth the geographic area where the species is listed for purposes of the Act." It also states that for species not listed in portions of their range or as a population, they will populate this column with the term "entire," which is defined as "Wherever found." This is a significant change. Many species have been listed in portions of their historic range where they are no longer found, including the gray wolf, bald eagle, California condor, lynx, grizzly bear and jaguar.
"With a quiet pen stroke, the administration is attempting to erase protection for the nation's endangered species," said Greenwald. "Under this rule, species like the California condor and jaguar will lose protection over most of their range."
In addition to this "formatting rule," the administration has proposed regulations that would exempt thousands of federal activities, including those that generate greenhouse gases, from scientific review under the Endangered Species Act, Yet another Bush policy, now finalized, would allow public lands to be degraded in return for speculative conservation promises on private lands. Finally, both the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, which together manage millions of acres of public land, have recently passed directions weakening protections for sensitive species.
"Together," concluded Greenwald, "these gifts to Bush political supporters amount to one of the most comprehensive and illegal set of changes to the Endangered Species Act in history."
Copies of conservation group comments available on request