March 5, 2009
Contact: Leda Huta, Executive Director: 202-320-6467
Jon Hunter, Policy Director: 202-476-0669
Senate Protects Endangered Species Provision
Murkowski Amendment rejected by a vote of 52-42
Washington DC - Today, the U.S. Senate rejected an amendment to the omnibus spending bill (HR 1105) that would have weakened an endangered species provision. The provision is designed to help repeal two Bush Administration regulations limiting protections under the Endangered Species Act. By rejecting the amendment, Congress is poised to enable the Obama Administration an expedited means of reviewing and repealing these rules.
The overall omnibus bill is expected to receive a final vote tonight or tomorrow and President Obama has stated that he will sign it into law.
Restoring Protections for All Species
"The endangered species provision in this bill will help build upon the leadership demonstrated by President Obama earlier this week in restoring our nation's endangered species protections," said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. "President Bush did everything in his power to undermine science in environmental decision-making and ignore the impacts of global warming. Repealing these rules is important to ensuring that all of our nation's endangered wildlife, fish and plants can recover."
Earlier this week, President Obama instructed federal agencies to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service to conduct an independent, scientific review of government projects to ensure they do not harm imperiled species. The Bush Administration rules limited when such reviews might be conducted. The omnibus bill language would enable the administration to make this change more permanent and repeal the additional rule changes that could not be addressed by executive order.
"Hundreds of thousands of Americans opposed these rule changes when the Bush Administration proposed them," said Jon Hunter, policy director of the Endangered Species Coalition. "The Bush Administration chose to ignore those Americans. Today's vote will give the Obama administration an opportunity to consider these opinions."
Protecting Polar Bears
A rule limiting protection given to polar bears under the Endangered Species Act also became final in mid January, but could be reviewed under the omnibus bill language. The Bush Administration's rule essentially limited protection for polar bears to only those the bear had before being listed as Threatened in May, 2008.
"If business-as-usual threatens the polar bears survival, then we know business-as-usual will not help it recover," said Huta. "It is just commonsense that we not tie our hands before we identify how to help the polar bears escape extinction."
The bill language does not overturn the regulations; it gives the new Administration the opportunity to review rules that took effect just days before President Obama was sworn in. The Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce will have 60 days from the passage of the Omnibus bill to review the consultation rules and withdraw or reissue them, if they choose.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will also be able to review the special provision that limits protections for polar bears under the Endangered Species Act.
"We encourage Secretary Salazar to quickly act to review and repeal these rules and we look forward to working with the administration to find real solutions to address the impacts that global warming is having on all species," said Hunter. "We also greatly appreciate the leadership of Senators Boxer, Cardin and Feinstein on opposing this amendment and Rep. Norm Dicks and the other appropriations committee members for their work on protecting endangered species with this bill."
The Endangered Species Coalition is a national network of hundreds of conservation, scientific, religious, sporting, outdoor recreation, business and community organizations working to protect our nation's disappearing wildlife and last remaining wild places.