Washington D.C. – Today, Congressmen Raúl M. Grijalva joined with conservation and scientific organizations to call upon on the Obama Administration to quickly restore weakened Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections, including those affecting the polar bear, its rapidly shrinking Arctic ecosystem, and the gray wolf that was recently proposed for delisting again under the new administration.
The Departments of Interior and Commerce just announced that they will in fact rescind one of these rules.
Last-minute rule changes by the Bush Administration severely weakened the ESA by diminishing scientific consultation requirements for federal agencies and restricting protections for the polar bear. Another Bush decision delisted the gray wolf, allowing hunts to take place. The Department of the Interior recently reissued this final rule on wolves, after a federal court overturned the Bush version last year.
The announcement by Secretary Ken Salazar and Secretary Gary Locke today indicated that the rule which made it optional for federal agencies to consult with the experts on endangered species at the Fish and Wildlife Service will be overturned. However, at this time there is no indication at this time whether other harmful ESA regulations such as those affecting the polar bear or gray wolves of the Northern Rockies will be rescinded.
At present, federal regulations exempt all activities occurring outside the range of the polar bear from protection under the Endangered Species Act. While oil and gas development and other industrial activities in polar bear habitat produce a large volume of greenhouse gas pollution, the majority of greenhouse emissions occur outside the bear’s range. Global warming and the melting of the Arctic sea ice is the primary threat to the polar bear and the reason for its listing.
“Today I called on my friend President Obama, and more specifically on Secretary Salazar, to fully wipe the slate clean of Bush-era hostility on endangered species and to global warming realities,” said Grijalva. “I applaud the decision to overturn one such harmful rule, but I now ask the Secretary of the Interior to go several steps further and rethink the decision not to review the polar bear rule, as well as urge him to revisit his decision to delist the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies.”
Congress granted the Obama administration a special 60-day period to repeal the changes and the Administration had until May 9th to expedite the repeal of the rules affecting endangered species.