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California Sues Over Endangered Species Rules Changes

December 31, 2008

The state of California has sued to stop the federal government from going ahead with mining, logging and other environmentally sensitive projects without consulting scientists.

The state claims that the outgoing Bush administration is trying to gut the Endangered Species Act.

The Interior and Commerce Departments recently changed rules to enable federal agencies to decide for themselves whether their actions put wildlife at risk, scrapping a previous requirement that they conduct reviews with scientists to determine whether their actions might hurt endangered or threatened species.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown said in a statement announcing the suit that the Bush administration is seeking to gut the Endangered Species Act on its way out the door.

The suit was filed Monday in Northern California Federal District Court to force the government to drop the rule changes.

The Attorney General argued that stopping the required scientific reviews would greatly increase the risk that federal agencies would move ahead projects that could harm endangered species and their habitats.

The Interior Department has contended the agencies can make good decisions themselves without the input of scientists, but environmentalists are taking a strong stance against the move.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation and the Center for Biological Diversity had all launched similar actions in court to block the rule changes before California became involved.

Only 58 species have been added to the endangered species list since President George W. Bush took office in 2001, compared with 522 during the eight years of President Bill Clinton’s administration.

Image Caption: Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus). Courtesy Fish and Wildlife Service

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