August 19, 2008
Lame Duck Threatens Endangered Species
THE last year in office can bring out the best or worst in an American president. For President Bush it's the worst, as he maneuvers to circumvent Congress and gut the Endangered Species Act.
The president must not be allowed to achieve this dishonorable goal. And both Barack Obama and John McCain, vying to succeed him, should shore up their environmental credentials by pledging to undo any harm he is able to accomplish.Bush's proposed rules would let federal agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service decide for themselves whether construction projects would harm endangered animals and plants. Bald eagles, grizzly bears and whooping cranes, beware. These agencies are not necessarily your friends.
Even if they wanted to be objective, the agencies in question don't have the expertise or independence needed for the kinds of analysis that independent scientists have been making for the last 35 years.
This assault on science can be stopped.
Congressional leaders should make it clear that if the president moves forward, they will pass laws countering the proposed regulations.
The environmental community should mount a campaign to keep the Interior Department from adopting the rules. Organizations should prepare to file lawsuits, since the rules ignore the spirit of the Endangered Species Act.
But the simplest approach would be for McCain and Obama to announce that they would reverse the rules when they take office Jan. 20.
That should discourage the president and his appointees from wasting time on this fight.
Developers have argued for years that the current laws are inflexible. They would especially like clarity on how the potential impact of climate change on plants and animals might affect project approvals. That's fair, but it's an issue best resolved by Congress, not by Bush appointees who don't value protecting species in the first place.
President Reagan gave 253 species protected status during eight years in office. Bush's father, serving just four years, listed 231. President Clinton protected 521 species in two terms. The current president has granted protection to only 59 species.
Americans generally understand the importance of preserving plants and animals endangered by human activity. Bush's people are not who we want setting the rules.
San Jose Mercury News
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