Today the Bush administration confirmed legislation changes that will eliminate the need for federal agencies to consult with scientists on projects that might cause harm to endangered species.
Under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service provided advice on whether government projects would pose a threat to endangered species. Today’s rule change eliminated this scientific review process, giving full decision on the risk of a project to the Department of the Interior.
Today’s ruling represents a major step backward in the protection of our nation’s natural resources and the ecosystem services they provide. ESA released a statement in August denouncing the proposed legislation and encouraging public comment. Our president, Sunny Power, had this to say:
The concept of independent scientific review has been in practice since the 18th century and is crucial to ensuring that ideas and proposed work are scientifically sound. This overhaul of the Endangered Species Act would place the fate of rare species in the hands of government stakeholders who are not qualified to assess the environmental impacts of their activities.
The silver lining is that since this legislation is a rule, not an act, the new administration will have the power to overturn it. As scientists, our duty now is to ensure that this happens, and happens with speed. Here are some things you can do as an ecologist:
• Write an editorial for your local newspaper about why this legislation undermines the protection of our natural resources.
• Send a letter to your representative and senators asking them to speak out against this legislation.
• Talk to your colleagues at your institution and across the country, and ask them to do the same.