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Obama Administration Revokes Last-Minute Bush Assault on Endangered Species Act

By April 28, 2009

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The Obama administration today revoked a controversial last-minute rule imposed by the Bush administration, which effectively gutted the Endangered Species Act and ended vital protections for threatened and endangered species.

The Bush rule made it unnecessary for federal agencies to consult with professional scientists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service—the two agencies that administer the Endangered Species Act—before taking any action that might affect threatened or endangered species. Today’s action by the Obama administration restores those important safeguards by reinstating the mandatory consultation procedure.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced their joint decision to revoke the Bush rule that undermined the ESA.

“By rolling back this 11th-hour regulation, we are ensuring that threatened and endangered species continue to receive the full protection of the law,” Salazar said. “Because science must serve as the foundation for decisions we make, federal agencies proposing to take actions that might affect threatened and endangered species will once again have to consult with biologists at the two departments.”

On March 3, President Obama directed Locke and Salazar to review the Bush administration’s Section 7 regulation of the Endangered Species Act, which governs interagency consultation. Congress, in the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, specifically authorized the two secretaries to revoke the regulation.

Locke and Salazar also said their two departments will conduct a joint review of the 1986 consultation regulations to determine if any improvements should be proposed.

The decision by Locke and Salazar was hailed as a victory by environmentalists.

"The Bush rules would have allowed agencies with little or no wildlife expertise to make decisions that could mean life or death for animals like the polar bear,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope in a statement. “Today's decision restores the important protections for species and their habitats offered by one of our nation's most fundamental environmental laws.”

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