Washington, DC — The U.S. Interior Department is preparing a wide-ranging set of regulations which substantially weaken the federal Endangered Species Act, according to internal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Center for Biological Diversity.
“These draft regulations slash the Endangered Species Act from head to toe,” said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “They undermine every aspect of law – recovery, listing, preventing extinction, critical habitat, federal oversight and habitat conservation plans – all of it is gutted.”
The draft regulations would –
- Remove recovery of a species or population as a protection standard;
- Allow projects to proceed that have been determined to threaten species with extinction;
- Permit destruction of all restored habitat within critical habitat areas;
- Prevent critical habitat areas from being used to protect against disturbance, pesticides, exotic species, and disease;
- Severely limit the listing of new endangered species; and
- Empower states to veto endangered species introductions as well as administer virtually all aspects of the Endangered Species Act within their borders.
“Kicking responsibility for endangered species protection to the states will make it nearly impossible to restore national oversight when states fail to protect endangered species,” stated Southwest PEER Director Daniel R. Patterson. “State biologists will be under enormous political pressure to accommodate development interests while lacking, in many cases, even rudimentary legal protection to defend scientific concerns about species survival.”
Following the collapse of former U.S. Representative Richard Pombo’s efforts to legislatively weaken the Endangered Species Act in 2006, the Bush administration pledged to use administrative rulemaking to accomplish some of the same objectives.
“If these regulations had been in place 30 years ago, the bald eagle, grizzly bear, and gray wolf would never have been listed as endangered species and the peregrine falcon, black-footed ferret, and California condor would never have been reintroduced to new states,” added Suckling. “This plan makes recovery all but impossible for most endangered species. Simply stated, it is the worst attack on the Endangered Species Act in the past 35 years.”
“Although states are key conservation partners, the reason we have a national act is that leaving species protection to the states was a recipe for extinctions,” Patterson concluded.
The draft regulations are being circulated for final inter-agency review and are expected to be formally unveiled later this spring. Congress could also proscribe or limit Bush administration proposals through the appropriations process.