The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Leda Huta, Endangered Species Coalition 202-320-6467
Jon Hunter, Endangered Species Coalition (202) 476-0669

Citizen Groups Uncover New Bush Administration Sneak Attack on Endangered Species Act

Latest Bush Rule Will Limit Protections for Imperiled Wildlife


In an underhanded attempt to weaken the Endangered Species Act, the Bush Administration has proposed another in their series of regulatory changes to the landmark conservation law. Citizens groups uncovered the proposed regulatory changes to endangered species listing and habitat protection buried deep within federal bureaucracy.

"The Bush Administration is attempting a last minute giveaway to their friends in the oil, mining, logging and development industries," said Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition. "They are trying to strip away protections for our public lands and wildlife heritage without public or Congressional input in these far-reaching changes to this landmark conservation law."

Today, the Endangered Species Coalition sent a letter to the administration opposing the proposed change and calling for an open and public process of evaluating the changes. The coalition was joined by many conservation, scientific, sporting, religious and citizens groups including the Union of Concerned Scientists, Center for the Future of the Oceans at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Christians for Environmental Stewardship, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and the Natural Resources Defense Council,.

"The Endangered Species Act is a safety net for our nation's wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction," said Huta. "The Bush Administration is trying to cut a giant loophole in the safety net under the cloak of night. The American people will not stand by while this lame duck administration tries a back-door attack on the Endangered Species Act."

The rule is one in a series of proposed regulatory changes to the Endangered Species Act released by the Bush Administration in the past several months. The Administration has also proposed changes that to eliminate the requirement that federal agencies consult with wildlife scientists and to prohibit consideration of the impacts of global warming on wildlife.

The stated purpose of the proposed rule "Amending the Formats of the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants" is to enhance the clarity of the lists of endangered and threatened species. However, the rule's title and its complicated legalese disguise the fact that it instead proposes regulatory changes would make significant changes in the way endangered species are listed and habitat is protected.

If in place at the time, this rule may have stopped the listing and protection of the bald eagle, Canada lynx, grizzly bear, brown pelican, the gray wolf and the jaguar. The proposed rule narrowly defines "the geographic area where the species is listed for purposes of the Act." This deceptively simple change could be interpreted to limit the area that endangered species will be protected only to their current range, which is usually drastically smaller than their historic range.

This "new interpretation" likely means that even a species that is doing well in one small area, but is extinct in the rest of its range could be denied listing. Obviously, this would put fish, plants, and animals in great danger given that pests, disease, and/or habitat destruction could quickly wipe out a small population.

The comment letter organized by the Endangered Species Coalition urges the Bush Administration to withdraw the proposed regulations and to extend the comment period to 120 days to allow the public adequate time to address the proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act.

"The proposed regulatory changes came out in the eleventh hour of the Bush administration. They are trying every trick in the book to rewrite a bedrock environmental law without alerting the American public to what they are trying to do," explained Huta.

The proposed regulatory changes were published August 5, 2008, while Congress was out for recess and many Americans were enjoying the summer holiday. The administration is only accepting public comment for 30 days, which closes Thursday, September 4. 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 website that warns reviewers their personal information will be posted on the internet for public dissemination.

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.