There are numerous national parks with species protected by the Endangered Species Act living within their boundaries. Panthers in Big Cypress, wolves and grizzly bears in Yellowstone, 18 different animal species and 15 different plant species in Channel Islands, even two small, shrimp-like freshwater crustaceans in Rock Creek Park in the District of Columbia are theoretically protected by the act.
So word today that the Bush administration is quietly working to eviscerate the act carries big ramifications for the park system.
Many thought the ESA was safe when Richard Pombo failed to get re-elected to Congress last fall. But it turns out his ouster didn't stop the administration from working to turn the act into little more than a piece of paper. According to the folks at the Center for Biological Diversity and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the administration has resorted to rule-making to gut the act.
And if the changes aren't blocked, there will be a significantly new landscape for protecting species, one that doesn't bode well for species.
"The draft regulations slash the Endangered Species Act from head to toe," says Kieran Suckling, policy director for the center. "They undermine every aspect of law. Recovery, listing, preventing extinction, critical habitat, federal oversight, habitat conservation plans -- all of it is gutted. It is the worst administration attack on the Endangered Species Act in the past 35 years."
You can view a side-by-side comparison of the act's existing provisions and the proposed changes at this site.
Some of the highlights:
* The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would lose its independent oversight function.
* States would be able to veto ESA species listings.
* Projects that impact critical habitat could continue unabated.
* Habitat for species would be restricted to currently occupied habitat, not historic ranges.
"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," notes Suckling. "The Endangered Species Act has put the vast majority of imperiled species on an upward recovery trend. These regulations would reverse the trend, making recovery impossible for hundreds of endangered species."
If you want to check out some of the handy work being done to the act by USFWS hands, check out this 113-page document.