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March 30, 2007

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Discussion Topic: Is the Bush Administration Out to Gut the Endangered Species Act?

On the heels of the Yellowstone grizzly bear delisting, which was touted by many as proof of the Endangered Species Act’s efficacy, Rebecca Clarren of the online magazine Salon.com reported Tuesday that a leaked Bush Administration draft proposal recommends sweeping changes to the landmark 1973 law that would radically curtail it’s powers to protect imperiled fish and wildlife.

Clarren broke the story as follows:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is maneuvering to fundamentally weaken the Endangered Species Act, its strategy laid out in an internal 117-page draft proposal obtained by Salon. The proposed changes limit the number of species that can be protected and curtail the acres of wildlife habitat to be preserved. It shifts authority to enforce the act from the federal government to the states, and it dilutes legal barriers that protect habitat from sprawl, logging or mining.

"The proposed changes fundamentally gut the intent of the Endangered Species Act," says Jan Hasselman, a Seattle attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental law firm, who helped Salon interpret the proposal. "This is a no-holds-barred end run around one of America's most popular environmental protections. If these regulations stand up, the act will no longer provide a safety net for animals and plants on the brink of extinction."

With everyone from major news outlets to bloggers picking up the story, headlines, updates, spin, and even accusations are flying. On the more inflammatory end, there’s this characterization from Scienceblogs.com:

Actually, "gut" really isn't descriptive enough to do justice to what [the Bush Administration is] getting geared up for. They are getting set to completely eviscerate the act. Basically, their plan is to take the thing, slit it up the middle, dump all the internal organs onto the ground and jump up and down on them. Then they're going to stuff the carcass of the Endangered Species Act with straw, and drag it around with them in a Weekend-at-Bernie's-esque attempt to maintain some sort of environmental credibility.

On the other side of the coin, most mainstream reports include perspective from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel, including from NPR:

"It's really a starting point, a beginning of a process," [USFWS director Dale Hall] says. "It's not one that represents any of the latest thinking that we have."

And from the San Diego Union Tribune:

“We haven't made any secret about our desire to make some improvements,” said Chris Tollefson at the Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, D.C. “What we tried to do in the last couple of months was get our senior staff to . . . look at what we could do as an agency . . . to really move forward and make progress. . . .
“We are not going to try to sneak anything under the radar,” he said.

Needless to day, these explanations are disputed.

So what do you think is going on? Is the Bush Administration trying to pull a fast one? Is the media blowing it out of proportion? Maybe a little of both? Write your comments below.


aaron moore

DUH! who does the puppet serve? The oil and Gas industry (thik I am wrong or a liberal wacko?....look at the increase in oil and Gas exploraiton leases on public land BLM, FS etc in the west since 2001?) Hey, I am ALL FOR HUNTING WOLVES AND GRIZ...I LIKE MY GUNS etc etc..BUT the Shrub administration's agenda with the ESA is to remove the restrictions on habitat access so the land can be exploited for gas and oil production. DUH! its the HABITAT STUPID

It seems to me folks who want to preserve hunting and fishing areas at the expense of our economic system, Free Enterprise, ownership of land etc, dont't open their eyes to what the endangered species act actully has done and is doing. Threatening to remove dams that create electricity, stop drilling for oil when we need the self sufficiency, stopping the logging buisness for an owl that they cared nothing about, stopping the fishing off the West coast, saving seals and then watching them kill the salmon it is illegal to catch. Reintrodusing wolves that years ago were eliminated because they killed so many cattle and wildlife. Killing the very animals you want to be free to hunt. What I have seen over my 70yrs of life is that the folks who have spent a lifetime creating something, taking the risks that are inherent in the creation of a ranch and business, then having people come along and want to curtail or eliminate what they have created in the guise of endangered speicies. It seems as if sport hunters and fisherman don't care about who they hurt as long as they get someone to furnish them a place to hunt or fish. It is OK by them if the economic system they take for granted is destroyed in the process. If you read this and decide to think I am against animals and the sportsman, you are again wrong. I was raised on a Ranch and we made our living with no subsidies, by raising and taking care of cattle, horses and land to make sure they and it were productive. It is really sad when people put down those who want to keep them free. If you don't have freedom from tyrannies and economics, you will not be free to exorcise the 1st, 2nd or any other ammendment or any part of the constitution than asures you of everything you have. If your President and leaders are not intent on keeping you free, you have a problem. At least at this time the President and some of the leader in this country understand their constitutional responsibility to you and I and all that goes with it.


Of course the Bush administration is out to gut the ESA. That's been the case all along and this leaked draft should come as no surprise. This administration's "environmental" policy in a nutshell: handouts to private industry and screw the environment.
As for the last post, it may be interesting to note that there are several recent examples of western ranchers and environmentalists working together to create a whole new model of cooperation that allows both profit for the landowner and responsible stewardship of the land. This works because generally speaking private ranchers care about the land. Big oil, logging, and mining industry generally doesn't--and these are the folks the Bush administration is so eager to help.


Lots of folks here may be quick to complain about the democrats taking over congress. But at least now there's some ballance--a force to oversee and check the administration's constant overreaching. Bush had a blank check for 6 years, and now with the opposite party controlling the congress we are just beginning to see the rampant, bald-faced curruption in his administration. This isn't about party affiliation. This is about what happens when a bad president--with a worse vice prez--is given way too much power. I fear that what we are beginning to see now--with all the scandals--is only the tip of the iceberg. This is going to get very ugly.
Maybe historically at least, it will deter future administrations from so arrogantly and underhandedly asserting their agenda.

Matt Mallery

As for the anti ESA post:

Why do people like you insist on sacrificing the natural world for a buck? You say the ESA hurts the economy? I say the economy hurts the ESA and the environment. Why do we need to protect the economy at all costs? So we can have more Chinese made junk, so we can have a second home, so we can have even bigger houses, and jet skis, and a TV in every room? Is this why we all need so much money? Shall we wipe out all the predators for money? Shall we shut down and sell off our National Parks for money. To be against the ESA is selfish to say the least. Your argument has no validity and is not rooted in science or vision. Bush is sacrificing our great wilderness heritage for his friends in the oil and gas industry. What would Theodore Rosevelt think? We will become a nation of concrete and steel, but at least we will all be able to afford lots of stuff.

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