EDITORIAL: SAVE THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT
Bennington Banner, Aug. 18, 2008
Save this act - from the government
When it comes to environmental laws, the Bush Administration is the fox guarding the henhouse, and its proposal to gut the Endangered Species Act would be one last tasty gift to its corporate friends.
The administration wants federal agencies to decide for themselves whether highways, dams, mines and other projects will harm endangered animals or plants. The changes would apply to any project the federal
government funds, builds or authorizes.
The Bush Interior Department's proposed overhaul of the act, which doesn't require Congressional approval, would greatly reduce the mandatory, independent reviews government scientists have been conducting in the 35 years since the act was adopted.
These reviews serve "as the main safety net for species on the brink by allowing scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if listed species will be harmed before moving forward with activities such as logging, mining or filling wetlands," according to the National Wildlife Federation.
Since 1973, the Endangered Species Act has saved hundreds of species from extinction, helped hundreds more recover and safeguarded the habitats they depend upon. "Without it, the bald eagle, condor, gray
wolf, grizzly bear, Florida panther, manatee and hundreds of other species would be extinct today," the Federation notes.
The new regulations also would bar federal agencies from assessing whether emissions from proposed projects would further endanger species or habitats by contributing to global warming.
The administration also proposes to impose a 60-day deadline on the Fish and Wildlife Service to respond to an agency's request for consultation on a project. It would allow the project to go forward if this deadline is not met, regardless of how harmful the project might be to endangered species.
The new regulations are expected to be formally proposed immediately, with a 30-day public comment period before they are finalized by the Department of the Interior. The administration then could impose them before the November election. A new administration or Congress could overturn them, but this process could take months or longer.
The administration's short-sighted and cynical proposal — more radical than truly conservative — to overturn a successful decades-old program should not be allowed to go forward.
"Do not be fooled when the administration claims it is merely tweaking the law," said John Kostyack, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation's conservation and global warming initiative. "The cumulative impact of these changes equals a full-blown attack on America's premier conservation law. We owe it to future generations to stop this attack and continue our legacy of protecting wildlife on the brink of extinction."
One can imagine Theodore Roosevelt, a great Republican president and conservationist, shaking his head in sadness over this proposal. Congress needs to take action to stop this wrongheaded, eleventh-hour scheme in its tracks. Members of the public can play a part by letting Congress know they oppose it.