Endangered Species Act

The Bush administration wants to modify the Endangered Species Act. The proposed changes would allow federal agencies to decide for themselves the effects their projects would have on plant and animal species. The revised rules are also intended to prevent the ESA from being used to regulate the greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

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Since the Endangered Species Act became law in 1973 – more than thirteen hundred animals and plants have been put on the list to preserve them and protect their habitat. But from the very beginning, opponents - principally mine owners and lumber companies - have tried to change the law. And now, in its final months in office, the Bush administration is proposing sweeping revisions to the Endangered Species Act that critics say threaten the law itself with extinction. The changes would streamline section seven - the scientific review of federally funded projects - that's used to determine if plants and animals are in jeopardy.

Kaush Arha (Kosh R-ha) is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior: "What the proposed rules do is to provide directions towards federal agencies as to which way to make the calls on those very marginal areas, you're not sure as to whether it's going to have an effect, may effect, or no effect. That's always sort of a gray area."

The administration wants to make it crystal clear that section seven can't be used to protect potentially threatened species from projects that emit greenhouse gases.

Arha: "It would be irresponsible and improper to use an endangered species act as a backdoor way to regulate or address global warming."

According to the Department of the Interior, the changes focus exclusively on Section seven of the Endangered Species Act, and according to them, its just a minor change.

Lisa Heinzerling has looked at the proposal -- she's a professor at Georgetown University Law Center: "Yeah, that's wrong. The changes allow an agency, lets say the Department of Transportation, which is proposing an action that may effect an endangered species to make the call about whether that effect will occur without consulting with the wildlife agencies. And so the agencies such as the Department of Transportation have first of all no substantial expertise in deciding whether these effects will occur with respect to endangered species. And second of all they like building highways, building dams, and so forth, they are not primarily interested in protecting species and for that reason the statute requires cooperation between the agencies interested in doing things like building highways and the wildlife agencies that are interested in protecting species."

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