November 3, 2008

blinded by hostility

By blinded by hostility

The past few weeks have seen several misleading articles and editorials on the proposed Endangered Species Act section 7 consultation regulations.  It's something we've discussed on this blog (see here, here, here, and here), and the Department of Interior has noted likewise.

Aside from the misleading statements, one other similarity amongst the news reports is that each of them fails to answer simple but important questions: from an environmentalist's perspective, what is it that is so bad about eliminating the need for a federal agency to consult with FWS or NMFS over a proposed action when that agency's scientific experts have concluded that the action would pose only insignificant effects on an endangered species, at most?  What is the problem with allowing FWS or NMFS to require consultation when they feel that the agency has concluded wrongly?

Relatedly, these articles do not explain how the benefits of not requiring agency consultations for actions with indeterminable effects on species (FWS/NMFS can use their resources more wisely on actual threats to endangered species, taxpayers will not have to fund a bureaucratic meeting that would produce few results), are outweighed by the benefits (if any) of requiring consultations that, again, would provide no real gain for endangered species.

What explains, then, the outcry over these regulations?  Reviewing these articles, it seems that much of the opposition to the proposed regulations stems not from any substantive concern over how the regulations would negatively effect endangered species, but is instead simply a manifestation of a reactionary hostility to the Bush Administration.  For instance, Jeff Schweitzer has warned that "[i]n a final act of sabotage, the Bush Administration is working furiously to undermine the Endangered Species Act."  According to The Thin Green Line, the proposed regs are part of "Bush's last ditch attempt to destroy the planet."  Almost every paragraph of the the Endangered Species Coalition's press release on the regulations notes that the Bush Administration is behind the proposal, as if that wasn't clear already.

It should be noted that skepticism of the government and a presidential administration is a good thing.  But hostility towards the executive branch is no excuse for unsupported arguments against a president's policies, especially ones coming from the country's media and leading environmental advocates.  If there is to be further opposition to the proposed Section 7 consultation regulations, let's hope that there will be a better explanation of how the regulations are bad for endangered species and that any future opposition will not simply be another way to pile on the current administration.

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