Dubya Keeps Hacking at the ESA

New Regulation Opens Loophole in Endangered Species Act

(Washington, D.C. – December 11, 2008) The Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced today a final rule change that weakens implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). At issue are Section 7 consultations with endangered species experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service, which are currently mandatory for any federal agency where their actions may affect endangered species, even if no negative impacts are likely.

The new rule proposed by the Bush Administration would allow agencies to determine on their own when their actions will have no effect on endangered species. FWS would no longer be required to concur with this determination.

“Consultation with experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service is one of the cornerstones of the Endangered Species Act,” said Mike Parr, Vice President of American Bird Conservancy. “This system of checks and balances helps ensure that the 90 birds and 1,263 other animals and plants that are on the Endangered Species List are adequately considered and protected by federal government actions.”

American Bird Conservancy submitted a comment letter on the proposed change.

A 2004 Administration decision to grant the Environmental Protection Agency an exemption from the consultation process was overturned in court, but that has not deterred the Administration from proposing the new, broader changes. This time they have widened the remit to all federal agencies, meaning determining the effects of potentially harmful projects on endangered species would be left solely to the agencies proposing the projects.

“This proposal is the latest in a series of efforts to undermine the ESA,” said Parr. “American Bird Conservancy’s 2006 Endangered Species Act Report clearly demonstrates the benefit of a strong legislative foundation to our efforts to protect our most threatened species. At a time when so many of our birds are suffering long-term declines, we should be increasing protections for them not reducing them.”

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) works to conserve native wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts to safeguard the rarest bird species, restore habitats, and reduce threats, while building capacity in the conservation movement. ABC is the voice for birds, ensuring that they are adequately protected; that sufficient funding is available for bird conservation; and that land is protected and properly managed to maintain viable habitat. ABC is a 501(c)(3) membership organization that is consistently awarded a top, four-star rating by the independent group, Charity Navigator.