Democrats Move to Protect Species Act

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Jerry Seaver
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Democrats Move to Protect Species Act

Post by Jerry Seaver » Thu Mar 29, 2007 6:02 am

Democrats move to protect species act
Dicks warns Interior Department against 'end run' changes
By CHARLES POPE
P-I WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Norm Dicks and senior Democrats warned the Interior Department on Wednesday against making major changes in the Endangered Species Act without involving Congress.

The quick and unambiguous response came one day after reports that the Interior Department has been working for months to reinterpret the 1973 law in a way that environmentalists said would gut the primary tool for protecting plants and animals on the verge of extinction.

The Bush administration and some Republicans have been working for years to change the act, which they say is onerous and overly expensive for landowners. At each step, however, Congress has blocked the changes.

The new approach would change the law unilaterally by changing the way it is interpreted. Those changes surfaced in a 117-page document and in departmental memos that discuss ways to restrict the law without needing congressional approval.

Dicks, who spoke Wednesday with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, said he was especially concerned by a proposal that would require extra protection only in areas where endangered species are found.

That would significantly narrow protections because current practice includes habitat that historically supported a species, even if that species no longer lives there.

"If you're only going to protect it in its current range, it's an incentive to unscrupulous people to minimize the range," Dicks said he told Kempthorne.

Any change to the law would have significant consequences in the Pacific Northwest, especially for efforts to restore dwindling salmon populations.

Officials with the Interior Department and the Fish and Wildlife Service echoed Kempthorne, saying the documents were drafts and not decisions that have been made.



Even so, environmental groups criticized the proposals, saying they would allow the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration, among others, to sidestep a 2005 federal court ruling that limited the amount of water that could pour through Columbia River dams.

"This latest attack by the administration makes recovery all but impossible for salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest," said Zeke Grader, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, the largest fishermen's organization on the West Coast.

Another proposed change would narrow when species can be considered in danger of extinction. Currently, that is interpreted as the statute directs some time "in the foreseeable future." The draft papers suggest a more specific timetable of 20 years for some species and a specific number of generations for others, said Jan Hasselman, a Seattle attorney for Earthjustice.

Other changes would allow logging, development and other projects even if those activities threaten a species but stop short of "hastening" its extinctions. The proposal also calls for states to have greater authority over protecting species.

Dicks said he told Kempthorne that the changes being considered are major and shouldn't be enacted without Congress' imprint.

"I told him we don't want to see a lot of things changed by rule," he said, adding that he told Kempthorne, "If you're going to change the law send up a bill."

Hasselman noted that many of the proposals were included in past legislation that was defeated.

"Congress refused to endorse these concepts repeatedly over the last 12 years," he said.

What Interior is trying, he said, "is an end run around the will of Congress and the views and values of America."

Dicks said Kempthorne told him that the proposals were in their early form and that final decisions about how to change the law have not been made.

Dicks also said that Kempthorne promised to keep Congress fully informed as the process evolves.

At the same time, "I wanted to lay down a marker today," Dicks said.

P-I Washington correspondent Charles Pope can be reached at 202-263-6461 or charliepope@seattlepi.com.

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Post by Crowdog » Thu Mar 29, 2007 6:35 am

Dicks, who spoke Wednesday with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, said he was especially concerned by a proposal that would require extra protection only in areas where endangered species are found.
What a concept....

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Post by Crowdog » Thu Mar 29, 2007 6:39 am

Here is CBD's take on it...

For Immediate Release, March 27, 2007

Contacts: Kieran Suckling, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 275-5960
Daniel Patterson, Public Employees for Environment Responsibility (520) 906-2159

Bush Administration Unleashes Staggering Attack on Endangered Species Act
Draft Regulations Would Eviscerate Species Act From Top to Bottom

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Following the collapse of Richard Pombo’s efforts to undermine the Endangered Species Act in 2006, the Bush administration pledged to eviscerate it through administrative rulemaking instead. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Center for Biological Diversity today released a copy of the administration’s draft regulations.

“The 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, habitat conservation plans – all of it is gutted. It is the worst attack on the Endangered Species Act in the past 35 years.”

The draft regulations would:

- Remove recovery as a protection standard
- Allow projects to proceed that have been determined to threaten species with extinction
- Allow destruction of all restored habitat within critical habitat areas
- Prevent critical habitat areas protecting species against disturbance, pesticides, exotic species, and disease
- Severely limit the listing of new endangered species
- Allow states to veto endangered species introductions
- Allow states to take over virtually all aspects of the Endangered Species Act

"Kicking a national responsibility like endangered species protection to the states will harm conservation. State employees can face even more political pressure and have less or no whistleblower protection than federal staff, especially in the West," said Daniel R. Patterson, Ecologist and Southwest Director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility in Tucson. "Federal wildlife biologists would likely be fired and programs gutted, making it nearly impossible to restore national oversight when states fail to protect endangered species. States are important conservation partners, but should not be in charge of the federal Endangered Species Act."

“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,” said Suckling. “The Endangered Species Act has put the vast majority of imperiled species on an upward recovery trend. These regulations would reverse the trend, making recovery impossible for hundreds of endangered species."

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Post by Dusty Rhodes » Thu Mar 29, 2007 8:50 am

Why would you protect something that isn't there?

How do you protect something that isn't there?

](*,)

**** it! I promised myself I would stay away from the Political board to keep my blood pressure from bursting a vein! :evil:
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Post by FunRunner » Thu Mar 29, 2007 12:53 pm

"If you're only going to protect it in its current range, it's an incentive to unscrupulous people to minimize the range," Dicks said he told Kempthorne.
In other words, it doesn't matter if the species is long gone, these guys want to keep the vacated area "protected." The questions is, "from what, for what?" :roll:

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Post by Crowdog » Fri Mar 30, 2007 6:38 pm

FunRunner wrote:
"If you're only going to protect it in its current range, it's an incentive to unscrupulous people to minimize the range," Dicks said he told Kempthorne.
In other words, it doesn't matter if the species is long gone, these guys want to keep the vacated area "protected." The questions is, "from what, for what?" :roll:
Because the species just may come back. You know. Just like the dinosaurs. :roll:

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Post by FunRunner » Fri Mar 30, 2007 8:22 pm

Crowdog:
Because the species just may come back. You know. Just like the dinosaurs.
Oh yeah, just like my youth :lol:

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