For Immediate Release
Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
Center for Biological Diversity Report Card Gives Obama Administration a “C” on Endangered Species, Climate, Energy, Public Lands and Oceans During First Year in Office
WASHINGTON - The Center for Biological Diversity
today gave the Obama administration a grade of "C" for its handling
of endangered species, climate, energy, public lands and oceans during its
first year in office. While the Obama administration has not shown the
ideological opposition to environmental protection of the previous
administration and has taken a number of positive steps, the administration has
fallen far short of delivering the promised "change" in overall
environmental policies. Among the positives are issuing a finding under
the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare and
reinstating protection for millions of acres of roadless lands, while negatives
include reducing protections for wolves and other endangered species and
pursuing offshore oil development in polar bear habitat off Alaska.
"The Obama administration has begun to steer the ship
in the right direction," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program
director for the Center for Biological Diversity. "But has failed
to provide the strong leadership to get us on the course we need to be to
address the pressing problems of species extinction and global warming."
On endangered species, the Center gave the administration a
solid C, as for every positive action there seemed to be a negative action of
equal scope. For example, the Obama administration rescinded regulations
passed in the final days of the Bush administration that would have gutted
enforcement of key provisions of the Endangered Species Act, but retained a
rule weakening protection for the polar bear. The Obama administration
also moved forward with a Bush initiative to remove protections for the gray wolf,
and has only listed two new species as endangered, which is the fewest
protected in the first year of any administration since the Reagan
"The Obama administration has not prioritized
protection of the nation's endangered species, meriting their grade of a
C," said Greenwald. "After the dark days of the Bush
administration, wholesale reform of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's
endangered species program was needed and this has simply not occurred."
On climate and energy, the Center gave the administration a
C-. The administration has taken some very important positive steps,
including issuing a seminal finding under the Clean Air Act that greenhouse
gases endanger public health and welfare, which sets the stage for greenhouse
reductions under several of the Clean Air Act's successful pollution
reduction programs. The administration also included millions of dollars
of tax credits and subsidies for improving energy efficiency and renewable
energy projects in the stimulus bill. However, the administration failed
to advance the greenhouse emissions reduction targets that scientists believe
are necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming either in the
legislation being considered by Congress or at the international climate talks
last December. The administration has also continued to grant permits and
leases for fossil fuel exploration and extraction, including mountain top
removal in Appalachia, off-shore oil drilling off of Alaska, and expansion of coal mining in the
Powder River Basin of Wyoming.
"We need bold, swift action to avert the climate
crisis," said Greenwald. "To date, the Obama administration
has not delivered the leadership we need."
The administration has done somewhat better on management of
the nation's public lands, where it received a B+ based on reinstatement
of a Clinton era rule protecting millions of acres of roadless lands and
withdrawal of the Bush era Western Oregon Plan Revision ("WOPR"),
which would have allowed logging of tens of thousands of acres of old-growth
forests in the Pacific Northwest. At the same time the administration
allowed logging of roadless areas in Alaska
On oceans, the administration received a B- based on its
acknowledgment that ocean acidification is a serious threat and initiation of a
process for determining how to address the problem. However, the
administration has also allowed oil drilling off Alaska
and has weakened protection for endangered sea turtles from long-line fisheries
"The administration has taken positive steps to
address a number of severe environmental problems," said Greenwald.
"We hope in the next few years, however, that the administration will
lead us towards the real change for which the American public
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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.