status of proposed Section 7 regulations
The Oregonian reports that Bush administration officials "do not plan to finalize revisions of the Endangered Species Act this week, contradicting news reports saying that they would push the revisions through by Friday so a new administration could not easily undo them." Thanks to ESA blawg's Keith Rizzardi for the pointer.
There is still no word on whether the regulations will be finalized by the end of today.
Relatedly, PLF Principal Attorney Reed Hopper has issued the following statement on the proposals:
Breathless criticism of the minor changes proposed to the ESA regulations have risen to the point of hysteria. Grandstanding critics would have us believe that the proposed changes will "gut the Act" and eliminate protections for endangered species. What nonsense! The Administration proposes to allow federal agencies to use their own in-house biological experts to evaluate the effects only of small projects that will have no significant impacts on protected species. Large projects like dams and highways, with obvious impacts on habitat, will still be reviewed by Fish and Wildlife Service biologists.
This is a commonsense change that is long overdue. Under the ESA, it is the project agency that has the duty to comply with the Act, not the Fish and Wildlife Service. There are also safeguards built into this approach. The Service can override an erroneous decision by the project agency and the Act itself subjects government agencies and officials to civil and criminal liability for harming protected species. Therefore, project agencies have every incentive to protect species from project impacts.
The proposed changes are unlikely to have any discernible adverse effect on current ESA practices, let alone "gut the Act."
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