Protecting Species When Necessary

Monday, August 25, 2008

We welcome The Post's call for targeted changes to the Endangered Species Act on the grounds that the law is "the wrong tool" for coping with climate change ["Endangered Process; Proposed rule changes to the Endangered Species Act could do lasting harm in the natural world," editorial, Aug. 19].

The rules we recently proposed would achieve that targeted goal. There is no basis for concern that they will "undermine the law's fundamental work."

We maintain all current protections against actions that would harm endangered species. Only where scientists tell us it is not possible to establish a causal connection between a particular action and harm to a species -- such as a carbon dioxide emission from an individual plant in Idaho hurting polar bears in Alaska -- will we make small common-sense modifications to the law's rules.

Our regulation clarifies that for projects that have no effects on listed species, insignificant effects or wholly beneficial effects, an agency may choose not to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In all but a small number of cases, consultation will continue as usual. And federal agencies will still face criminal and civil penalties if their actions harm endangered species. But where there is no direct harm, our biologists will be freed up -- so they can concentrate on conserving and recovering rare animals and plants.


Assistant Secretary

for Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Department of the Interior


© 2008 The Washington Post Company