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Bush Administration Weakens Endangered Species Act


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Recently, in one of my grad classes, we had a visiting legal professor who has worked on many environmental cases in the United States. He came to give a talk on global warming, and one of the strategies that people have employed to combat global warming is using the Endangered Species Act. Under the Act, if an animal or plant is considered to be endangered by scientific experts, the government must take measures to ensure the survival of the plant or animal.


Obviously, at the time of passing the Act, most people were thinking of saving cute, "sexy" animals, like whales, polar bears, bald eagles...etc. But the Act has come to encompass a much broader spectrum of animals, as shown in the article.


The Bush administration, it seems, has gone to great lengths to weaken the Act's power and scope:


With little-noticed procedural and policy moves over several years, Bush administration officials have made it substantially more difficult to designate domestic animals and plants for protection under the Endangered Species Act.


Controversies have occasionally flared over Interior Department officials who regularly overruled rank-and-file agency scientists' recommendations to list new species, but internal documents also suggest that pervasive bureaucratic obstacles were erected to limit the number of species protected under one of the nation's best-known environmental laws.


The documents show that personnel were barred from using information in agency files that might support new listings, and that senior officials repeatedly dismissed the views of scientific advisers as President Bush's appointees either rejected putting imperiled plants and animals on the list or sought to remove this federal protection.


Officials also changed the way species are evaluated under the 35-year-old law -- by considering only where they live now, as opposed to where they used to exist -- and put decisions on other species in limbo by blocking citizen petitions that create legal deadlines.


As a result, listings plummeted. During Bush's more than seven years as president, his administration has placed 59 domestic species on the endangered list, almost the exact number that his father listed during each of his four years in office. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has not declared a single native species as threatened or endangered since he was appointed nearly two years ago.




Anyway, any thoughts?

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