Eight states join California's Endangered Species Act defense

Legal News Line Jan. 20, 2009, 10:00am

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) -California Attorney General Jerry Brown says eight states are supporting his effort to block a move by the Bush administration to weaken the Endangered Species Act.

Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island all signed on to Brown's lawsuit filed in late December against the Bush administration.

The lawsuit claims the changes to regulations violate three different acts adopted by Congress, and follows three similar lawsuits filed by environmental groups previously filed.

"There is broad and deep opposition to the Bush Administration's effort to gut the Endangered Species Act," Brown said. "It is my hope that the new Obama administration will take a fresh look at these rules and restore the independent scientific review of projects affecting endangered species, which has been a hallmark of the ESA for 35 years."

The attorney general called the move by then-outgoing Republican President George W. Bush an 11th-hour attempt to "gut provisions" in the Endangered Species Act.

According to Brown, a Democrat, the new regulations proposed by the Department of Interior and Department of Commerce in August, largely eliminate scientific review requirements of federal decisions that impact endangered species and their habit.

The changes allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to permit mining, logging, and other commercial activities to take place on federal land and other areas subject to federal regulatory control without review or comment from federal wildlife biologists on the environmental effects of such activities on endangered and threatened species and their habitat, a press release issued by the California attorney general's office stated.

"There is nothing more important than the rule of law," Oregon Attorney General John Kroger said. "These backdoor Bush Administration rules violate federal law and harms Oregonians. The Department of Justice will aggressively protect our state in court, especially when our environment and our basic civil rights are threatened."

Kroger said the Bush administration bypassed Congress by instituting these regulations on Dec. 16, "The last possible minute," according to Kroger, "allowing for little congressional input and only a short window for public participation."

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