Conservation Groups File Suit to Restore Endangered Species Act Protections

The National
Wildlife Federation, 13 of its affiliates, and Golden Gate Audubon have filed a
lawsuit
challenging the Bush administration’s regulations weakening the
consultation requirements of the Endangered Species Act.

According to
the suit, the Bush administration’s regulations drastically reduce protections
for America’s imperiled plants, fish and wildlife and are in direct violation of
the administration’s duties under the Endangered Species Act.

“The Bush
administration rushed these regulations through in record time,” said John
Kostyack, Executive Director of Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming at
National Wildlife Federation. “Top political appointees were intent on cutting a
gaping hole in the Endangered Species Act, and opening up sensitive habitats for
development activities, before leaving office.”

The new regulations
virtually eliminate independent scientific review under the Endangered Species
Act. Until now, federal agencies have been required to consult with expert
biologists at the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service
to determine whether projects pose any harm to imperiled wildlife.

Under
the new rule, federal agencies will be able to unilaterally determine if
actions, such as building a highway or filling in a wetland, will adversely
affect endangered species. Most federal agencies have neither the expertise nor
the incentive to thoroughly scrutinize their own projects’ impact on wildlife.

The new regulations also prohibit scientists from addressing the impacts
of global warming on imperiled wildlife. “Global warming is a leading threat to
the survival of many wildlife species and to the ecosystems on which both people
and wildlife depend,” said Kostyack. “Federal agencies should be protecting
wildlife from global warming – telling them to ignore the impacts of global
warming on wildlife is exactly the wrong message.”

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