Monday, August 25, 2008

Bush Wants to Relax Endangered Species Rules - What You Can Do

About to get poured on, thunder approaching fast. How exciting.

Most of us know that the Endangered Species Act gets no respect but parts of it may soon not be around at all. (AP Press release) The current administration and its loathing of obstacles has proposed doing away with scientific, independent mandatory reviews that have been in place for decades prior to any federal construction on highways, dams, and mines. This has been an environmental and species safety net established 35 years ago, thank goodness.

The new regs do not require Congressional approval and the normally 60 days public comment time has been whacked to 30 days, to squeeze it in before elections – how conveeeenient. Undoing this later through Congress is a lengthy procedure and will surely be enough time to cause a lot of damage. The proposal wants individual departments to do their own reviews and they claim to have the experts in place to do this. Sounds like these foxes are in for a banquet.

The Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who oversees the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Geological Survey, and the National park Service (a long time politician with no experience or affection in these areas) accuses the Endangered Species Act as being used by some to regulate the gases behind global warming. Dirk says: “It is not possible to draw a link between greenhouse gas emissions and distant observations of impacts on species.” You mean like the polar bear? Is this guy in this century?

So finally some insiders have found a way to get around the Species Act with this new proposal. Many federal agencies and private construction firms have complained over the years about delays and increased costs. Wah-Wah. Some, like the trade association lobbying group The National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition, whine about wanting to streamline the process (code word for ramming it through).

There is a lot more to the picture and you can get more outraged by reading more details. The point here is… what can be done to stop this? The public comment time is only 30 days. Senator Barbara Boxer from California heads the Environment and Public Works Committee and considers these proposals illegal. Her office would be a good place to start. Call, email and ask what you can do. Contact your Senators and State Representatives and let them know what you think. Remember they represent you.

Species are going extinct at an alarming rate. Scientists put the numbers at 35-150 per day. Biologists have long tried to make the point of how interdependent we are as creatures sharing this earth. Losing a species here and there IS a big deal. We, as humans, are being very short sighted (some call it arrogant) if we don’t appreciate this complex web of existence. Remember, this is the same Species Act that brought the dwindling bald eagle back to life. I think a program that was so successful in protecting our National Bird is worth keeping. I hope you do too. Please call or email your reps today.

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