Weakening Endangered Species Protection

The Bush Administration wants to make it easier for federal agencies to get around the Endangered Species Act. The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin explains:

Under current law, agencies must subject any plans that potentially affect endangered animals and plants to an independent review by the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service. Under the proposed new rules, dam and highway construction and other federal projects could proceed without delay if the agency in charge decides they would not harm vulnerable species.

But how is, say, the Department of Transportation going to make those decisions? The point of leaving it up to FWS or NMFS is that they’ve got the relevant experts.

Mike Dunford at The Questionable Authority goes through the proposed rule and explains what’s problematic about the various sections. He points out that the 60-day time limit for informal consultation means that other agencies can swamp FWS and NMFS with consultations, knowing that they won’t be able to get to most of them within 60 days.

The rule hasn’t been formally proposed yet; once it is, it’ll be subject to a 30-day comment period.