You can’t really typify the Bush administration as being friendly to wildlife since, well, ever, but fresh documentation proving that appointees in the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sought to make it harder and slower to list endangered species comes as an extra smack in the face.
The Washington Post recently published a report that shows that agency appointees routinely ignored and even suppressed reports and advice from both internal and external scientists to avoid listing severely threatened species as endangered.
The documents show that personnel were barred from using information in agency files that might support new listings, and that senior officials repeatedly dismissed the views of scientific advisers as President Bush‘s appointees either rejected putting imperiled plants and animals on the list or sought to remove this federal protection.
Officials also changed the way species are evaluated under the 35-year-old law — by considering only where they live now, as opposed to where they used to exist — and put decisions on other species in limbo by blocking citizen petitions that create legal deadlines.
In more than seven years as president, Bush has listed 59 species as endangered — about the same amount his father placed on the list each year. Clinton listed an average of 62 species on the list each year. In the two years since the appointment of Interior Secretary Dick Kempthorne (this guy), not a single species has been listed as endangered or threatened.
Bush administration officials claim that they haven’t been able to list species as endangered because they’ve been mired in lawsuits, but most of these lawsuits stem from environmental groups suing to protect the species that the agency never listed in the first place. During this administration, some species have already vanished, including the Lake Sammamish kokanee, a landlocked sockeye salmon, and Columbia basin pygmy rabbits.
Pour a forty for the salmon and the pygmy rabbits, and let’s hope 2009 is the start of a better eight years for endangered species. — Ted Alvarez