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Endangered Species Act Endangered?

August 15, 2008

Rapid City, SD - Conservation groups say the Endangered Species Act will be endangered itself if a new set of rules proposed by the Bush administration goes into effect. Jim Margadant, regional conservation coordinator for the South Dakota Sierra Club, says the plan lets each federal agency decide if its own actions or projects might harm a species.

He warns they eliminate the requirement that federal agency plans be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service. The new rules, which came from Department of Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, caught everyone by surprise, Margadant says.

"Kempthorne states flat out that this relates back to the polar bears' listing due to the effect of greenhouse gases and climate change. In his press releases, he's very up-front about that. He does not want to see the Endangered Species Act being used as a way to regulate greenhouse emissions or to address the effects of climate change."

The administration defends the rules change, saying it allows agencies to approve new pesticides and projects to reduce wildfire risks. But Margadant worries the action will allow every federal agency to do what it wants, free of oversight from scientists and wildlife professionals. He is especially concerned because it was an executive decision, which is not subject to Congressional review.

"That makes this an end run around the legislation. Congress would have to act specifically to stop this. They could change the law, but that's a rather harsh measure. Essentially what's going to happen is it's going to end up in the courts and litigation, and then we'll hear a bunch of people screaming about judges making law."

A 30-day public comment period on the rules begins when the proposed revisions appear in the Federal Register. Information about the South Dakota Sierra Club is available at southdakota.sierraclub.org/.

David Law/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - SD