LESS THAN 1% OF COMMENTS FAVOR BUSH ENDANGERED SPECIES PLAN

Proposed Changes Never Reviewed by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Call for Congress to Close the Federal Register Now

Washington, DC — Proposed regulations by the Bush Administration to ease protections for endangered species have generated more than 300,000 comments overwhelmingly in opposition. Rushing to process all of the comments, officials have developed a code to assign a number for each of the more than 100 different policy and legal objections raised by opponents so the comments can be responded to en masse, according to a document posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The code consists of seven pages listing argument after argument opponents have raised, including an array of legal, practical and economic concerns. It was developed from sampling several thousand comments. The code enables Bush administration lawyers to write up answers without having to actually read the comments. These samples also show only a miniscule portion of comments (less than 1%) favor the plan.

Nonetheless, the Bush administration plans to disregard all of the arguments and finalize the new rules before the next administration is sworn in. President-elect Obama has already announced his opposition to the Bush endangered species plan and pledged to reverse it, a process that could take months, however.
“This is the last hurrah of the Bush administration and they have no intention of letting public input or logic get in the way,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the endangered species rules are one of a slew of “midnight regulations” being pursued in the final weeks of the Bush administration on topics ranging from occupational health to air pollution to birth control. “Congress could close this circus down by acting to freeze the Federal Register when it returns to session later this month.”

The Bush endangered species rules would allow federal agencies to dispense with the advice of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologists about whether projects like highways or power-plants pose potential harm to federally protected species. Opponents in the conservation community contend that this would dramatically weaken Endangered Species Act protections by removing preventative measures which eliminate conflict early in the planning process. These changes would be the first major rewrite on the rules since 1986.

“This plan did not come from the scientists who administer the Endangered Species Act,” Ruch added. “In fact, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the agency most affected by the plan, did not have a role in reviewing this plan. It was dictated by political appointees in its parent agency, the Interior Department.”

--PEER
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