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December 11, 2008 

New Interior Department Rule Weakens Endangered Species Act, Blatantly Disregards Rulemaking Process

Federal agencies, regardless of expertise, can now make decisions affecting endangered species without scientists' input

The Department of the Interior and Department of Commerce today announced a final rule modifying an Endangered Species Act requirement that federal agencies consult with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists when making decisions affecting endangered species. The new rule grants federal agencies greater leeway in determining to what degree protected species would be threatened by a range of development projects, including roads, dams and mines.

Below is a statement by Francesca Grifo, director of the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists:

"This new rule is essentially a changing of the guard for determining how government projects will affect endangered species. Instead of expert biologists taking the first look at potential consequences, any federal agency, regardless of its expertise, will now be able to make decisions that should be determined by the best available science.

"We not only find the new rule objectionable, but the way the agency arrived at it is unacceptable. When developing these rules, the Interior Department closed the door to experts, sharply reduced public involvement, and afforded only 32 hours of review to more than 230,000 public comments.

"Considering the potential significant and long-lasting effects to imperiled wildlife that could result from this rule change, the rulemaking process deserved much more transparency.

"President-elect Obama's administration must take a close look at this rule to ensure our nation's biodiversity is not being jeopardized by last-minute regulatory decisions."

For more information about the rule change, go to: http://www.doi.gov/news/08_News_Releases/121108.html.

For the UCS Scientific Integrity Program's recommendations for the next administration, go to: http://www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/solutions/big_picture_solutions/


The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading U.S. science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also has offices in Berkeley, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

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