Endangered Species Act and secret Bush memos

New legal memos by top Bush administration officials say that the Endangered Species Act can’t be used to protect animals and their habitats from climate change by regulating specific sources of greenhouse gas emissions, the cause of global warming.

The assessment, outlined in memos sent earlier this month and leaked Tuesday, provides the official legal justification for limiting protections under the Endangered Species Act.

“They are reinterpreting the law in ways many believe are unlawful,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark , who was the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service during the Clinton administration and now is the executive vice president of Defenders of Wildlife, a group that works to protect and restore wild animals and plants in their natural habitats.
Clark said career people weren’t consulted, and that the system for federal agencies to meet with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service didn’t need to be revised.
Clark said many federal agencies lacked the biological expertise to determine whether their projects harmed wildlife, but that the bigger issue was conflict of interest.
“When you have the Forest Service or the BLM ( Bureau of Land Management ) or the Defense Department or whoever, they have a different primary mission,” she said. The two wildlife services have knowledge about the species protected under the act and “they become the check and balance for the Forest Service in assessing the impacts of their timber cuts and so on.”
John Kostyack of the National Wildlife Federation said the consultations were a cornerstone of the law. “Allowing federal agencies to forgo this process would put America’s treasured plants, fish and wildlife at risk.”
Eric Biber of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law , and professors from 17 other law programs criticized the proposed rule change Monday and said they’d send comments to the government.
“The rules are over broad, rushed and possibly illegal,” Biber said. “Given the timing of the proposed changes, it’s clearly an effort by the administration to weaken the regulations before President Bush leaves office.”



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