The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Stuart Pimm, (305) 852 9749 office
John Vucetich, (906) 370-3282
Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

129 Scientists Call on Secretary Salazar to Rescind Bush-Era Policy Limiting the Scope of Endangered Species Act


Scientists from around the country
today sent a letter
to Interior Secretary Salazar calling for him to rescind a Bush-era
that limits the scope of the Endangered Species Act by
allowing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ignore historic range when
determining if species require protection as endangered and to limit protection
for species to small portions of their ranges.

"Ignoring loss of range when determining whether
species require protection as endangered species makes little sense,"
said Dr. Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke professor of conservation ecology at Duke University.
"Resetting the clock to the present day could result in many species that
have lost significant portions of range being wrongfully denied

The policy, which was issued in 2007 by the Bush
administration's top lawyer at the Department of the Interior, interprets
a key phrase in the Endangered Species Act. Under the Act, an endangered species
is defined as any species in danger of extinction in "a significant of
portion of its range." This phrase is important because it means that
species need not be at risk of extinction globally to receive protection, but
rather can receive protection if they are at risk in significant portions of
their range. The Bush-era policy limits the scope of the phrase by specifying
that when determining whether a species is endangered in a significant portion
of its range, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should only consider current
and not historic range. The policy also asserted that when a species is found
to be endangered in a portion of its range, protection would only be applied in
this portion.

"This policy is limiting protections for some of the
nation's most endangered species, including the gray wolf, Colorado River
cutthroat trout and others," said Dr. John Vucetich, a professor at Michigan Tech University
and one of the authors of a study
proposing a different approach to significant portion of range. "The
Endangered Species Act was designed to protect the broader ecosystems utilized
by species, not just museum populations of species in small fractions of their
historic ranges."

The policy is typical of the Bush administration's approach
to the Endangered Species Act, which was often designed to limit the
law's scope and was marred by controversy, including investigations by
the Interior Department's inspector general and Congress.

"Despite clear problems, the Obama administration has
yet to revoke this damaging policy," said Noah Greenwald, endangered
species director with the Center for Biological Diversity and author of a study
criticizing the Bush approach. "This letter shows that the scientific
community has roundly rejected this policy and it should be axed."

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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