A wide range of Bush Administration actions that benefit big business have unleashed a growing number of threats to America's wildlife resources, according to a new report released today by four of America's leading conservation groups. "Open Season on America's Wildlife: The Bush Administration's Attacks on Federal Wildlife Protections" details rollbacks of key wildlife conservation measures by the current administration, as well as responses the groups are taking to protect wildlife and wild lands.
"When it comes to protecting our wildlife, this administration isn't just dropping the ball, it's fouling out," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, senior vice President of the National Wildlife Federation and a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "The Bush administration is ignoring the law, selling out in court, distorting sound science and missing golden opportunities, and America's wildlife are ending up the on the losing side."
"It's important to realize that these attacks on wildlife are part of what the national environmental community has identified as a clear, massive, and –we believe – undeniable strategy on the part of the Bush Administration and its appointees from industry to use the president's executive authority to weaken, undermine and subvert the nation's environmental protection laws to benefit their big corporate supporters," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife
"What's truly distressing is that the Bush Administration is not only attacking wildlife and other laws in plain view, they're also taking to backdoor attempts to reach their goals," said Buck Parker, executive director of Earthjustice. "In case after case the administration officials who are sworn to uphold the law are retreating in the face of industry lawsuits – leaving our laws and our wildlife unprotected."
Some of the most egregious findings involve administration officials ignoring or undermining the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and key wildlife protections. Among the examples:
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ignored a court order to analyze the impacts of its Nationwide Permits (NWPs) on the critically-endangered cactus ferruginous and instead continues to authorize development under the permits, threatening the owl, its habitat and the acclaimed Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan in Pima County, Arizona.
- Administration officials continue putting the needs of big irrigation interests first in addressing the problems of the water-starved Klamath Basin of California Oregon. This contradicts a federal court ruling requiring adherence to the ESA and Native American treaty obligations to protect imperilled fish at risk of extinction due to low flows and reduced water quality resulting from massive commercial irrigation projects.
The report finds that the administration has repeatedly tried to rollback or failed to defend important wildlife and habitat protections from court challenges. Faced with a host of industry lawsuits challenging ESA critical habitat designations, the Administration has refused to defend any of them. It chose not to fight the timber industry's many lawsuits against the Forest Service's Roadless Area Conservation Rule, and instead improperly suspended forest protection rules that had been based on scientific recommendations and massive public input. The administration's replacement regulations are expected to eliminate a host of key wildlife protections, including the longstanding requirement that national forests maintain viable populations of wildlife species.
The Bush Administration has also sided with extractive industries – particularly oil and gas companies – in opening sensitive wildlife habitats to heavy industry. Grizzly bears on the Rocky Mountain Front, California condors, the Florida manatee, sharks, Pacific salmon, and a host of other species have seen vital parts of their habitat encroached upon and even eliminated for the benefit of energy, timber, mining and other corporations. The report details cases of administration officials distorting or disguising the best information provided by federal wildlife and other scientists in an effort to secure policy outcomes opposed by sound science, but favorable to business interests.
In order to resist this assault on wildlife, the groups will undertake a series of legal and other actions around the country. Defenders of Wildlife today announced legal filings or notices on the manatee in U.S. District Court in Washington, the pygmy owl in U.S. District Court in Arizona, the Canada lynx in the Great Lakes region, and other actions.
"We would all like to work with this administration to meet the needs of wildlife and wild lands, added Clark. "But if necessary, we'll fight for wildlife in the Congress in the courts and the court of public opinion.
Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.