The Interior Department has qietly proposed the easing of restrictions on the international trade of 13 endangered species, including the trumpeteer swan, the bobcat, the Alaskan peregrine falcon and bald eagle and the California sea otter.
The proposal, made in a letter to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna, has caused a furor among animal protection groups, and yesterday brought the intervention of the president's Council on Environ-mental Quality (CEQ).
CEQ Chairman Charles Warren met yesterday with Interior's deputy secretary. James Joseph, to protest the lack of public notice of the recommendations. The biological evidence for easing restrictions on some of the species is disputed by an interagency advisory group, Warren said.
Interior officials agreed to hold a public hearing on the recommendations Nov. 28.
The controversy comes at a time when the endangered species act is under congressional attack for a too-restrictive approach to protecting endangered flora and fauna.
Congress held up appropriations for the endangered species office this year, putting it out of business for 41 days.
The proposal to ease the restrictions may have been prepared at a time when the office was not supposed to be in operation, according to environmentalists who have threatened to file suit over the issue.
Bobcat pelts are in demand by the fur industry, and falcons for hunting by sport falconers. "We're not talking about furbish louseworts," said Warren, a reference to the infamous endangered week that threatens to stall a proposed dam in Maine.
"These are well-known species and if they are removed from the endangered list, we want to make sure the data is unbassed. The only way to do that is through public review."
However, Keith Schreiner, an Interior official said 48 nations that have signed the convention agree that the list of 137 species neds revision. Each country has made recommendations to be reviewed by the group in March. "We think we have made an honest decission, based on biology, not on emotion," Schreiner said.