THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT EVISCERATION AND POLAR BEAR EXTINCTION RULE
Just before leaving office, the Bush administration dealt a parting punch to endangered species across the nation, issuing two regulations intended to (1) remove the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an independent, scientific watchdog over potentially destructive federal projects like timber sales, mines, and dams; (2) exempt all greenhouse gas-emitting projects, including coal-fired power plants and federal fuel efficiency standards, from Endangered Species Act review; and (3) specifically ban federal agencies from protecting the imperiled polar bear from greenhouse gas emissions and oil and gas development. These policies were meant to eviscerate the central Endangered Species Act process — Fish and Wildlife Service oversight — that has protected endangered species for 35 years, and exclude the greatest future threat to endangered species — global warming — from consideration under the Act. The policies drew lawsuits by the Center, other environmental groups, and nine states.
Thankfully, on April 28, 2009 — the very same day the Center delivered more than 90,000 petitions (later to become 94,000) to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar requesting he take action fast — Salazar rescinded the rule blocking Fish and Wildlife Service oversight under the Endangered Species Act. This came after the Obama administration and Congress had promptly taken the first steps toward revoking both damaging Bush regulations: On March 3, President Barack Obama sent out a presidential memorandum ordering agencies to ignore the Endangered Species Act rule, and on March 11, he signed into law an omnibus appropriations bill giving Salazar 60 days to rescind both the Endangered Species Act rule and the polar bear rule with the stroke of a pen. Between the day Salazar was given the power to rescind the rules and the day he restored the Endangered Species Act, he was called upon to save both the Act and the polar bear by 41 members of the House of Representatives; eight senators; 35 members of the California legislature; more than 13,000 scientists; numerous law professors; and more than 200,000 citizens represented by more than 130 conservation organizations.
Devastatingly, a day before his deadline to act for the polar bear, Secretary Salazar announced he was refusing to rescind the lethal rule. The Center will continue our fight to overturn the rule and earn the Arctic giant the true Endangered Species Act protections it needs to survive.