08.12.08

Bush Administration Proposal Guts Endangered Species Act, Whitehouse Says

Interior Dept. Wants to End Independent Scientific Review of Projects’ Harm to Protected Wildlife Populations

Washington, D.C. - A Bush Administration proposal to allow individual government agencies, rather than scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to decide whether vulnerable wildlife would be harmed by new construction projects badly undermines the Endangered Species Act, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said today.

"This is a blatant and unjustifiable attempt to gut a landmark environmental law that has protected our treasured American wildlife for more than three decades - a law championed by Rhode Island's own John Chafee," said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "Once again, the Bush Administration is putting its political interests first, leaving scientific decisions in non-scientific hands and corroding proud institutions of government to further its own ends.

"I will work with my colleagues on the Committee to investigate further. We will not allow this Administration to dismantle our country's bedrock environmental protections as it slinks off the stage."

Since the passage of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) 35 years ago, all federal construction projects have been subjected to review by independent scientific panels to assess their potential to harm local plants and animals. Under the Administration's plan, however, federal agencies building dams, highways, or other major public works projects could determine for themselves whether that construction would adversely impact threatened or endangered species despite lacking the scientific expertise to make these determinations. If the proposal succeeds, it would be the most sweeping change to the ESA in decades.

Whitehouse is the author of the Global Warming Wildlife Survival Act (S. 2204), which calls for a coordinated national strategy to help wildlife populations, habitats, and coastal and marine ecosystems adapt to stresses related to climate change.

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