The Center for Biological Diversity has just released a new report “Politicizing Extinction: Bush’s Dangerous Approach” which details the current administration’s negligence regarding species protection.
Bush Administration Sets All-time Record for Denying Protection to Endangered Species: Zero New Listings in Past Year
Report Documents Rampant Executive Interference in Protection of Rare Wildlife
WASHINGTONâ€” Today marks exactly one year since the U.S. Department of the Interiorâ€™s Fish and Wildlife Service last protected any new U.S. species under the Endangered Species Act. Fittingly, on this same day, the House Natural Resources Committee is holding important oversight hearings on implementation of the Endangered Species Act by a recalcitrant Bush administration. The last time the agency went an entire year without protecting a single species was in 1981, when the infamous James Watt was Secretary of Interior. There are currently 279 highly imperiled species that are designated as candidates for listing as threatened or endangered and that face potential extinction.
â€œThe Bush administration has closed the doors on endangered species,â€ said Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. â€œWith the pressing threats of rapid habitat destruction and global climate change, itâ€™s an outrage that not a single new species has been protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for an entire year.â€
The last species protected by the administration were 12 Hawaiian picture-wing flies listed in a single rule on May 9, 2006. Overall, according to a report released today by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Bush administration has listed fewer species under the Endangered Species Act than any other administration since the law was enacted in 1973, to date only listing 57 species compared to 512 under the Clinton administration and 234 under the first Bush administration.
â€œThe Bush administration has killed the program for protecting new species as endangered,â€ says Greenwald, â€œand in the process has contributed to the extinction of at least two species. This governmentâ€™s war on science is also a war against wildlife.â€
In October of last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the Hawaiian plant Haha (Cyanea eleeleensis) is likely extinct and thus is being considered for removal from the candidate list. The summer run of Lake Sammamish Kokonee salmon in Washington state are also believed extinct. In 2001, a group of concerned citizens petitioned to have the population protected as endangered, but despite pleas from county officials and the dire status of the fish, the Bush administration never took action. Many more species are at increased risk of extinction because of the Bush administrationâ€™s lack of action.
The Centerâ€™s report documents administration interference in two other key aspects of the Endangered Species Act: designation of critical habitat and development of species recovery plans. According to the report, interference by Bush political appointees, such as discredited former Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie MacDonald, has led to the reduction of as much as 90 percent of all critical habitats designated under the administration and to widespread tampering with the scientific conclusions of recovery plans for the Apache trout, Northern spotted owl and West Virginia flying squirrel, among others.
â€œThe Bush administration is systematically undermining the recovery of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates and plants,â€ said William Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity. â€œNot only is it refusing to list species in need of protection, it is also ignoring or undercutting recovery plans at the request of its political supporters in industry.â€
Not coincidentally, these actions are consistent with recently leaked draft regulations that would allow the Departments of Interior and Commerce to gut every significant protection contained in the statute. Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, Senate committee chairs Barbara Boxer and Joe Lieberman, and Republicans such as Rep. Wayne Gilchrest and Rep. Jim Saxton have all publicly complained about these problematic draft regulations.
In the Apache trout case, three scientists on the recovery team dissented from the clandestine changes made by Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall that lowered population targets and removed genetic-diversity requirements. The fish experts stated they â€œdo not believe the Planâ€™s revised recovery strategies and objectives are sufficient to allow the species to be delistedâ€ and that the changes will result in â€œfurther genetic degradation and possible extinction.â€ In another recent example concerning the Northern spotted owl, a â€œWashington, DC review teamâ€ that included Julie MacDonald has sought to undermine the well-established system of old-growth forest reserves so as to give favorable access to the timber industry. In the case of the West Virginia northern flying squirrel, the administration has again ignored the best available science on habitat degradation, global warming and recovery targets by prematurely moving to delist the species.
â€œOne shudders to think of the antics this administration will attempt in its waning days of power,â€ concluded Snape. â€œNow is the time for Congress to step in and prevent eleventh-hour political abuses and special favors that have the potential to destroy species, their habitats, and the opportunity for recovery.â€
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.