Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Are scientists an endangered species?

The lame duck Bush administration is trying an end-run around the Endangered Species Act as a parting shot.

Its twisted logic? Federal agencies should decide whether projects affect endangered plants or animals before having scientists determine whether they affect those species.

The Department of Interior press release is a smokescreen to me, with code words and a lot of spin but not much information about the actual rule. I tried to look up the proposed regulation, but the process is not exactly intuitive. The closest I came was this proposal for the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service. It includes the following line, which I think was paraphrased pretty well in my second paragraph:
Do not apply guidance contained in this chapter (FSM 2670) that pertains to conducting a biological assessment unless the LMP, amendment, or revision may have an effect on threatened or endangered species or is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a proposed species, or will result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated or proposed critical habitat (FSM 2670.31).
I couldn't find a DOI proposal, but this seems to be what the press release is talking about.

'Snail darter' critics have been after the ESA for oh, about 35 years. Now it looks like they've found their champions. Changes may be needed, but that's why we've got a Congress. Gutting it backdoor through regulations is wrong... and typical of this administration.

MSNBC has a pretty good story, more balanced and easier to follow than the press release. According to them, scientists had little role in the rule change either:
The proposal was drafted largely by attorneys in the general counsel's offices of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Interior Department, according to a source with the National Marine Fisheries Service. The two agencies' experts were not consulted until last week, the official said.
That shouldn't surprise anyone who remembers scientific reports from the Environmental Protection Agency being edited by political hacks in the White House.

Monument in his own mind

Also not surprising is that this "Ocean President" seems to have forgotten Hawaii's Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument once it was created. MSNBC is also reporting that funds to clean up plastic and other debris have been cut drastically: Debris soils Bush vow to protect Hawaii islands.

Hey, but on the bright side, DOI has recruited the Little Mermaid to warn kids about dropping trash in the water.

Thirty days until the rule takes effect; six months until we get a President who gives a damn about the environment.

1 comment:

Lil' Hammerhead said...

Six months is six months too long.