Parts of the Endangered Species Act may soon be extinct. The Bush administration wants federal agencies to decide for themselves whether highways, dams, mines and other construction projects might harm endangered animals and plants.
New regulations, which don't require the approval of Congress, would reduce the mandatory, independent reviews government scientists have been performing for 35 years, according to a draft first obtained by The Associated Press.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said late Monday the changes were needed to ensure that the Endangered Species Act would not be used as a "back door" to regulate the gases blamed for global warming. In May, the polar bear became the first species declared as threatened because of climate change. Warming temperatures are expected to melt the sea ice the bear depends on for survival.
"We need to focus our efforts where they will do the most good," Kempthorne said in a news conference organized quickly after AP reported details of the proposal. "It is important to use our time and resources to protect the most vulnerable species. It is not possible to draw a link between greenhouse gas emissionsand distant observations of impacts on species." Read on...