Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

September 27, 2005

CONTACT: Brent Plater 415-436-9682 x 301
Julie Teel 619-255-3443

Interior reveals that Manson cooked the books, is dishonest about habitat

San Francisco- Craig Manson, the controversial Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks in the Bush Administration, announced yesterday that he has slashed habitat protections for the western snowy plover nearly in half, leaving thousands of acres previously determined to be “essential to the survival” of the snowy plover unprotected.

The San Francisco Bay area, which has one of the largest populations of snowy plovers anywhere, will receive no habitat protections at all.

“The snowy plover’s recovery is linked to the continued health of our coast, and we owe it to future generations to make sure that this wonderful creature survives,” said Brent Plater, Bay Area Director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “One of the most effective ways to do that is to protect the special places the snowy plover calls home.”

The Endangered Species Act is our nation’s safety net for imperiled fish, wildlife, and plants. The Act has been enormously successful in preventing species extinctions, and has more than a 98% success rate. The cornerstone of the Endangered Species Act’s success has been the protection of “critical habitat;” scientific studies have shown that species with their critical habitats protected by the Endangered Species Act are twice as likely to be recovering as those that do not.

However, in his decision to slash habitats for the snowy plover Assistant Secretary Manson contradicts these peer reviewed studies, claiming that protecting critical habitats “provides little additional protection” to imperiled species while “consuming significant amounts of available conservation resources.” But in 2004 two different Freedom of Information Act searches of Mr. Manson’s office determined that the Assistant Secretary has no documents to support his claims that critical habitat does not provide additional protection to species, or even that these protections are outweighed by the costs of such designations.

To find support for its dubious statements, the Administration purported to assess the benefits and costs of the critical habitat designation but, inexplicably, excluded all benefits from its analysis. This absurd analysis was met with outrage by agency biologists in comments on Manson’s proposal obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Administration has rigged the cost-benefit balance sheet in a way not seen since Enron was exposed,” said Julie Teel, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Yet while corporations can file for bankruptcy and start over, the snowy plover won’t get another chance because once its habitats are gone, they are gone forever. The snowy plover needs to have all the areas essential to its survival protected, not just the ones that even accounting tricks can’t hide.”

“Biologists who study the plover, the agency in charge of the plover’s marine habitat, and the Administration’s own data all agree that protecting critical habitats is essential to the protection of imperiled species such as the snowy plover,” said Plater. “Today’s announcement is nothing less than an eviction notice for snowy plovers on beaches throughout the Pacific Coast.”


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