Bush proposes slashing endangered species protections

Well, I can't say I'm surprised to hear this. After years of quietly cutting protections for endangered species and ignoring the research of top scientists, the Bush Administration has finally taken things to the next logical level.

Or is that illogical level?

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne yesterday proposed regulatory changes that would "reduce the mandatory, independent reviews government scientists have been performing for 35 years, according to a draft first obtained by The Associated Press."

The new rules appear to, in many ways, remove the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from reviewing many government-sponsored projects (such as highways) to see if they would impact local species. Instead, the federal agency in charge of the project would be allowed to makes its own decisions about whether or not the construction would impact any endangered plants or animals.

More specifically, the AP reports that the rules "would bar federal agencies from assessing the emissions from projects that contribute to global warming and its effect on species and habitats... The revisions also would limit which effects can be considered harmful and set a 60-day deadline for wildlife experts to evaluate a project when they are asked to become involved. If no decision is made within 60 days, the project can move ahead."

Kempthorne says these changes are "narrow," but environmental groups are aghast, and with good reason. Kempthorne blatantly admits that the new rules are a reaction to the recent (and still ongoing) lawsuits which sought to protect the polar bear from habitat loss due to global warming.

Changes in regulations don't need to be approved by Congress, but they are subject to a 30-day public comment period. Starting now.

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