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Sneak attack on endangered species

Aug 14, 2008

The Bush administration is once again out to plunder the Endangered Species Act, America's safety net for the most endangered plants and animals.

What you can do: Take action

Send a message online by Tuesday, October 14. The Endangered Species Coalition, which includes Conservation Northwest, will print out and deliver your comments personally to Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne.

Once again, the Bush administration intends to severely weaken the Endangered Species Act (ESA), America's safety net for the most endangered plants and animals. Proposed new regulatory changes would exempt tens of thousands of federal, taxpayer-funded projects each year from independent reviews by biologists and input from the public. This allows projects from high rises to roads to be built with no independent review of their potential harm to endangered plants and animals.

Agencies can currently decide that a project will not harm endangered species, but their decision must first be independently verified by biologists at either the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service. Most of the projects are approved, but many receive important modifications to meet the law and protect America's most threatened wildlife. Those assurances for protecting wildlife are thrown out the door should the proposed rule changes be approved.

In Washington State, this weakening of the ESA would directly affect 1,353 U.S. species listed as threatened or endangered, from northern spotted owl to gray wolf. The changes would also bar federal agencies from even considering emissions from projects that contribute to climate change and the effect they might have on survival of species.

In 2006, courts struck down a similar if narrower attempt to give the Environmental Protection Agency authority to approve pesticides without consultation with agency scientists. This latest rout deserves a similar fate.

More information: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Dateline Earth, The Oregonian, New York Times
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