On the 160th anniversary of the Department of the Interior, President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum that would undo an eleventh-hour regulatory change by the Bush administration that sought to cripple the Endangered Species Act by cutting scientists out of the review process, allowing federal agencies to decide on their own whether federal projects -- including construction of highways and dams -- poses a threat to imperiled wildlife.
Earthjustice attorney Janette Brimmer filed litigation challenging the changes in federal district court in San Francisco on December 16.
The following is a statement from Earthjustice Senior Legislative Representative Susan Holmes:
"As we commemorate 160 years of the Department of the Interior, we applaud the new administration's leadership in restoring scientific integrity to this agency and its mandate to protect our nation's wildlife.
"We're heartened that President Obama intends to return wildlife biologists to their rightful role in determining protections for America's plants and animals. What's needed now is for the Senate to defeat an attempt by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that seeks to make it more difficult for the Obama administration to undo this misguided rule change by the former administration.
"President Obama's directive sends a loud and clear signal that the former administration's political manipulation of science will no longer be tolerated. There are a host of instances where flawed science was used in policy-making: one striking example is the development of the Bureau of Land Management's Western Oregon Plan Revisions where political interference from Bush administration officials kept wildlife and fish biologists entirely out of the loop in order to drastically change the protection scheme for 2.6 million acres of public forests, including eliminating protections for 364,000 acres of old growth forests in western Oregon."
The following is a statement from Earthjustice Attorney Janette Brimmer:
"Today's action by the administration is a crucial and positive first step in reinstating protections for endangered species lost through last-minute actions by the Bush administration. We are encouraged by the President's action and look forward to full repeal of these illegal and ill-considered rules."