Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that the Obama administration will reverse an Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulation that allowed federal agencies to go ahead with actions that may impact endangered species without consulting with experts, essentially circumventing the role of conservation scientists in such decisions.
“By rolling back this eleventh-hour regulation, we are ensuring that threatened and endangered species continue to receive the full protection of the law” said Salazar.
The change to the ESA was made last December by the Bush administration and drew heavy criticism from environmental and conservation groups. At the time, during heavy campaigning, Obama stated that he opposed the last minute rule changes with a spokesman stating: “As president, Senator Obama will fight to maintain the strong protections of the Endangered Species Act and undo this proposal from President Bush.”
Darin Schroeder, Vice President for Conservation Advocacy at the environmental organization, American Bird Conservancy, agreed with Salazar’s decision. “We are gratified Secretary Salazar and Secretary Locke acted to restore the Endangered Species Act to its intended strength. The consultation process is one of the cornerstones of the ESA, and one of the key checks and balances that ensures protection for the 90 birds and 1,263 other animals and plants it covers.”
Another anticipated ruling regarding polar bears has not been announced yet. While the Bush administration found that melting ice in the Arctic due to climate change was endangering polar bears, they ruled that the ESA could not used to regulate carbon emissions in order to protect the polar bear. Salazar must make a judgment on this rule by May 9th.
“Secretary Salazar took an important step today toward restoring needed protections for endangered species,” said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “But he still needs to rescind the special rule for the polar bear, which amounts to a death sentence for the majestic bear because it exempts greenhouse gas emissions from regulation.”
(03/11/2009) Enacted in 1900 by William F. McKinley the Lacey Act is the oldest wildlife protection law in the US; for a over a century it has protected animals from being illegally hunted and trafficked. An amendment made last year has now extended the law to protect plants for the first time, making it possible for the US to support efforts abroad and at home to combat illegal logging.
(01/27/2009) President Obama has moved to allow states set automobile emission rules, opening the door for more fuel efficient vehicles. Monday Obama signed a memorandum requiring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider California’s application to set tighter auto emissions and fuel efficiency standards than required under federal law. Should the waiver be granted, automakers would be forced to sell more fuel efficient vehicles if they want to do business in the state.
(11/09/2008) On Tuesday, November 4th, the people of the United States elected a new president, Senator Barack Obama. Many feel a new day is coming on a number of issues, including the environment. However the Bush Administration has 72 days left in its term and appears hopeful to use every one of those to make last-minute changes to environmental rules that will have wide-ranging impacts on the nation's endangered species, air, water, parks, and undeveloped land. As the administration has done since taking office eight years ago, it is working toward such policies—all of them controversial—to benefit industry at the cost of the environment and health safeguards.