To Be or Not to Be… an Endangered Bee. Or Frog. Or Bear… - Mercedes-Benz Forum

 
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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-28-2007, 10:16 PM Thread Starter
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To Be or Not to Be… an Endangered Bee. Or Frog. Or Bear…

It seems wildlife is simply thriving in our CO2-filled atmosphere, since the U.S. Interior Department is preparing a set of measures that will severely limit the listing of new endangered species.

Although the Bush administration, faced with increasing evidence about global warming, has recently made shy steps towards listing the polar bears as an endangered species, it appears that the same administration is trying to “compensate” the aforementioned proposal with a revised set of regulations that would substantially weaken the federal Endangered Species Act- according to internal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Center for Biological Diversity.

“These draft regulations slash the Endangered Species Act from head to toe,” said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “They undermine every aspect of law – recovery, listing, preventing extinction, critical habitat, federal oversight and habitat conservation plans – all of it is gutted.”

The draft regulations would –

* Remove recovery of a species or population as a protection standard;
* Allow projects to proceed that have been determined to threaten species with extinction;
* Permit destruction of all restored habitat within critical habitat areas;
* Prevent critical habitat areas from being used to protect against disturbance, pesticides, exotic species, and disease;
* Severely limit the listing of new endangered species; and
* Empower states to veto endangered species introductions as well as administer virtually all aspects of the Endangered Species Act within their borders.

“Kicking responsibility for endangered species protection to the states will make it nearly impossible to restore national oversight when states fail to protect endangered species,” stated Southwest PEER Director Daniel R. Patterson. “State biologists will be under enormous political pressure to accommodate development interests while lacking, in many cases, even rudimentary legal protection to defend scientific concerns about species survival.”

According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility organization, the administration’s move is a reminiscent of former U.S. Representative Richard Pombo’s efforts to legislatively weaken the Endangered Species Act.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (or ESA) was the most wide-ranging of dozens of United States environmental laws passed in the 1970s in an attempt to halt or reverse the degradation of the environment. The act is designed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction due to "the consequences of economic growth and development un-tempered by adequate concern and conservation".

Richard William Pombo (born January 8, 1961), a former Republican member of the United States House of Representatives, representing California's 11th congressional district from 1993 to 2007, had campaigned for years against the Endangered Species Act and eventually saw his efforts rewarded in October 2004, when the House of Representatives approved a rewrite of the law that would make it more friendly to landowners. However, the US Senate overturned the law last year.

After multiple allegations of corruption, misuse of official resources, nepotism, questionable campaign contributions, and concerted opposition from national environmental groups, Pombo lost a reelection bid to Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney on November 7, 2006.

“If these regulations had been in place 30 years ago, the bald eagle, grizzly bear, and gray wolf would never have been listed as endangered species and the peregrine falcon, black-footed ferret, and California condor would never have been reintroduced to new states,” added Suckling. “This plan makes recovery all but impossible for most endangered species. Simply stated, it is the worst attack on the Endangered Species Act in the past 35 years.”

“Although states are key conservation partners, the reason we have a national act is that leaving species protection to the states was a recipe for extinctions,” Patterson concluded.

Acting under orders from Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who has long fought for changes in the law, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall said he had asked his senior field staff to evaluate proposals in the draft by policy advisors in the Departments of Interior and Commerce, which oversee almost 1,300 imperiled species.

"What we're attempting to do is to update our implementation of the existing law," said Hall, who said any changes would not need to be approved by Congress and would be signed by Kempthorne or a representative.

"The act is written or not written by Congress, but we have the responsibility to implement the law through regulations and policies. We're trying to bring consistency and clarity. That has been a significant problem from one area of the country to another," Hall said.

"The focus is how we can do a better job of recovering more species," US Interior Department spokesman Hugh Vickery said in an interview. He called the documents that have surfaced preliminary and in some cases out of date.

"There's not going to be anything done to damage our ability to protect endangered species" and that the aim is to make the federal law work better, said Chris Tollefson, a spokesman for the department's Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the federal law.

The draft regulations are being circulated for final inter-agency review and are expected to be formally unveiled later this spring. Congress could also proscribe or limit Bush administration proposals through the appropriations process.

Recently, Federal wildlife managers have disclosed their plans to lift protections for Yellowstone's iconic grizzly bear population, despite the fact that the animals face a troubling future because of global warming. Yellowstone grizzlies depend on the seeds produced by the whitebark pine tree. Global warming is causing beetles to kill this key grizzly food source at alarming rates.

Grizzly bears in the continental United States occupy only 2 percent of their historic habitat. Only one percent of their historic population levels survive today.

An infectious fungus aggravated by global warming killed entire populations of frogs in Central and South America and driven some species to extinction.

Between the 1980s and 1990s, almost two-thirds of the 110 known species became extinct, and a chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) has been suggested as the prime suspect.

About a third of the 5,743 known species of frogs, toads and other amphibians are classified as threatened, according to the Global Amphibian Assessment.

Up to 167 species may already be extinct and another 113 species have not been found in recent years. Habitat loss is the greatest threat to amphibians but fungal disease is also a serious problem.

According to another study published at the beginning of 2006, commercially fished species, such as the roundnose grenadier and the onion-eye grenadier, declined 99.6% and 93.3% respectively from 1978 to 2003. Accidentally snared fish, such as the blue hake, spiny eel and spiny-tail skate, declined as much as 98% from 1987 to 1994.

Scientists also warn that there are only 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears in 19 separate populations worldwide, about 4,700 of which live in Alaska. Canada, Russia, Denmark (Greenland) and Norway have the balance.

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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-28-2007, 10:27 PM
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-28-2007, 11:53 PM
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Originally Posted by GermanStar
Scientists also warn that there are only 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears in 19 separate populations worldwide, about 4,700 of which live in Alaska. Canada, Russia, Denmark (Greenland) and Norway have the balance.
That's a damn shame, too, being that polar bears are such good eatin'.

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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-29-2007, 06:54 AM
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A good friend of mine works in management in a FWS endangered species office. His take is a longer view, having been in the endangered species regulatory process since Carter.

Though Reagan made lots of noise and raised awareness of the "evils" of the ESA, the first effective assault on the ESA came under Bush I.

Arguing that it was to forestall even worse reinterpretation, the 2nd Clinton Adminstration increased the paperwork burden and decreased the budget and manpower.

Dubyuh II's attack (in trial balloon at this time) is of the same magnitude but much more accurately targeted (one could easily say, "malevolently targeted") than Clinton II.

In other words, the ESA has been intentionally eroded by each president since Reagan II. Impacts have been greatest under Bush I, Clinton II and (probably) Dubyuh II.

It looks like presidents are most willing to aggravate the environmental lobby in their 2nd terms.

What will be the impact on the resource? More difficulty in listing (increased paper work) without a concomitant increase in manpower. This will increase delays in listing. Sounds good, right? Well, the same FWS folks who are responsible for listing species are also responsible for evaluating EIS's. This means that your EIS for construction will take a little longer for approval. Also, candidacies that are contested could easily (perhaps even likely) result in loss of the species before it can be protected.

Delisting will be speeded-up. That's actually a good thing, though some enviros' eyes will bug-out on my saying so. I know of one species in particular, brown pelican, that is listed as endangered and should not be. There are numerous rookeries and the population and range is expanding. There is a healthy, increasing population. That is a good thing and that is exactly the intent of the ESA. The bald eagle is another one. Lots of nesting pairs, increasing population, expanding range.

Why are they still listed? Two words: "Charismatic megafauna." Humans just love cute animals and want to protect them. Especially people who have never been off concrete in their lives. They have a Walt Disney view of wildlife--Bambi is their model. They definitely do not wish to know that nature is "red in tooth and claw." In their world, lions and lambs could lie down together if they could just learn to love and appreciate their diversity.

Do I like adjusting the ESA in the manner proposed by Dubyuh?

Increasing the burden on the already burdensome candidacy for listing process is a bad mistake.

Increasing the weight of financial gain when considering impacts is going to be uniformly bad for the resource.

Decreasing the safeguards on delisting is probably a good idea.

Last edited by Botnst; 03-29-2007 at 06:57 AM.
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