Last Minute Bush Administration Changes Undermine Endangered Species Act

Sep 17, 2008

Although scientists say nearly 30 percent of the world’s plant and animal species could become extinct due to global warming, the federal government may not notice if the Bush administration’s proposed rule changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are allowed to take effect, The Wilderness Society charged in comments submitted to the Department of Interior late yesterday.

“This administration continues to undermine the Endangered Species Act, this time by allowing decision makers to ignore the effects of global warming and turn a blind eye to its impact on the world’s plant and animal species,” said Linda Lance, the Wilderness Society’s vice president for public policy. “We should not be redefining language in existing regulations so decision-makers can run from one of the most challenging problems of our generation. We should be confronting this challenge head-on with regulations that protect our nation’s biodiversity—biodiversity that human health depends on.” The proposed new rules for interagency cooperation on ESA purport to give “clarity” on how the law should apply to issues such as global warming. Instead, they alter regulations “such that the effects of global warming will rarely, if ever, be considered,” according to the TWS comments. Because 30 percent of species alive today will become extinct if global warming continues unabated, according to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the federal government will not have even assessed the impacts being felt by these species before their demise, the comments note. Changes proposed to ESA by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne would also allow federal agencies to make land management decisions or other actions without consulting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service about the impacts their actions might have on a particular species. Furthermore, the rule changes would provide that actions would no longer need to be considered for their cumulative effects on particular species. “These proposed regulations threaten the biodiversity on which all human health depends,” David Moulton, TWS director of climate policy, said. “We urge the Departments of the Interior and Commerce to rethink and reject these dangerous proposals. The administration has become quite adept at doing nothing about global warming, but this is lame-duckery at its worst—a last-minute attempt to permit political appointees to avoid common-sense consideration of global warming on the critical habitat of threatened and endangered species.”