A 117-page document obtained by Salon.com highlights a “secretive plan” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to “gut” the Endangered Species Act.
The law, which is credited with saving the American Bald Eagle from extinction,” would be changed to limit the number of species that can be protected,” curtail preserved acres of wildlife habitat, and “dilute legal barriers that protect habitat from sprawl, logging or mining.”
These proposed changes are the latest in the Bush administration’s attempts to weaken the Endangered Species Act in favor of special interests:
– Scientists pressured to alter findings. FWS scientists had been “forced to alter or withhold findings that would have led to greater protections for endangered species,” according to a 2005 survey.
– Political appointees overruled scientists’ findings in favor of industry positions. Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie MacDonald consistently “rejected staff scientists’ recommendations to protect imperiled animals and plants under the Endangered Species Act.” She called scientific studies “opinion” and told employees to treat them “as we would treat an industry publication.”
– FWS lists fewer endangered species under Bush. Since January 2000, President Bush has listed only 57 species as endangered — “fewer than any other administration in history.” George H. W. Bush listed 234 and Bill Clinton listed 512.
The proposed changes are also “littered with language lifted directly” from former Rep. Richard Pombo’s (R-CA) failed attempt in the 109th Congress to cripple the Endangered Species Act, and mirrors legislation that current Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthrorne — who oversees the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — attempted (and failed) to pass while in the Senate in 1998.
– Ryan Powers