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Obama Dumps Bush Rule on ESA Consultation

Important protections for the nation's most-endangered wildlife, such as the grizzly bear, salmon and manatee, were restored when the Obama administration repealed an eleventh-hour Bush rule allowing federal agencies to skip consulting with wildlife experts on many federal projects.

Grizzly bears in the lower-48 states were reduced to one to two percent of their historic numbers due to persecution, predator control efforts, sport hunting, and habitat destruction associated with the march of human development.
Photo: Janice Searles

The number one cause of injury and death to manatees by people comes from boats and other waterborne craft.

In December of 2008, the Bush administration relaxed Endangered Species Act rules that require federal government agencies to consult with wildlife experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service about potential adverse consequences to endangered species and their habitat before going ahead with government projects.

Despite tens of thousands of letters and cards from citizens and scientists protesting the proposed rules, the Bush administration handed a departing gift to oil and gas, development and other industries, by allowing agencies to skip consultation with the wildlife experts in a wide range of instances.

The rules encouraged and allowed federal agencies to avoid protective consultation when the adverse effects to a species or its habitat was due to global warming or emissions contributing to global warming. This kind of wholesale exemption of a class of adverse effects on a species was unprecedented, much less for effects from what science is telling us is one of the worst environmental problems of our time.

Earthjustice wasted no time in going to court to overturn the ill-advised relaxation of protections for species, filing the case the same day the Bush rule was published. Earthjustice filed the case on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Counsel, the Sierra Club, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens' Associations, the Institute for Fisheries Resources, Conservation Northwest and the Humane Society of the United States.

As a result of the multiple challenges to the rule, the new administration acted quickly to undo the damage. In March, on the 160th anniversary of the Department of the Interior, President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum advising federal agencies to consult with wildlife experts. On April 28, secretaries Salazar and Locke announced the full repeal of the Bush rule and the reinstatement of consultation requirements with the wildlife experts in order to protect endangered and threatened wildlife and their habitat.

"By reinstating the proper use of science and full protections for species, the Obama administration is helping to ensure that our actions do not push embattled species like salmon and grizzly bears closer to the brink," said Earthjustice attorney Janette Brimmer.