Friday, April 17, 2009

Interior Secretary Salazar hears from Congress, scientists and conservationists

Yesterday, I went to the last Department of Interior hearing in San Francisco on off-shore oil drilling. It was so inspiring to see hundreds of people supporting strong environmental protections and opposing drilling off our coasts! Several speakers asked Secretary Salazar to overturn the Bush Administration’s regulations that weakened the Endangered Species Act.

Representative Lynn Woolsey said it best when she asked “Mr. Secretary, isn’t it time to rollback the Bush Administration’s revisions of the Endangered Species Act policy?” For that, she received a standing ovation, long applause and cheers from the crowd.

You can see a webcast of the event at http://www.visualwebcaster.com/event.asp?id=57278

Members of Congress, scientists and conservation organizations urged U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to act quickly to rescind two rules passed in the final days of the Bush administration that weaken the Endangered Species Act. One of these rules exempts thousands of federal activities, including those that generate greenhouse gases, from review under the Endangered Species Act, and the other sharply limits protections for the threatened polar bear. Under the Bush administration rules, the impacts of such drilling on climate and the polar bear would be exempt from consideration under the Endangered Species Act.

On behalf of our millions of individual members, I urged Secretary Salazar to act immediately to protect our nation’s wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction. If the rules are allowed to remain in place, the Fish and Wildlife Service will not be able to consider and mitigate such impacts. Many wildlife species are threatened by oil and gas development along the outer continental shelf -- including polar bears, stellar sea lions, Guadalupe fur seals, Pacific walruses, southern sea otters, blue whales and sea turtles. Greenhouse gas emissions are currently predicted to result in loss of two-thirds of the world’s polar bear population by 2050. Saving these species from offshore oil development and climate change will require the full protections of the Endangered Species Act.

With President Obama and Secretary Salazar’s leadership, the Department of the Interior now has the opportunity to not only repair all of the damage done to environmental protections, but to also take environmental programs a step further in protecting America’s wildlife and wild places. The Obama administration has an opportunity to root out corruption, ethical failures and the shocking abuse of science that we have seen in the previous administration and to restore scientific.

Congress has given the Secretary of the Interior the opportunity to overturn both the section 7 and section 4d endangered species regulations put in place by the Bush administration, but he needs to act by May 9th to use these special provisions.

Sign our petition to Secretary Salazar at
http://www.change.org/esc/actions/view/petition_to_save_the_polar_bear

For more than three decades, the Endangered Species Act has faithfully and successfully served as one of our nation’s landmark wildlife protection laws, providing a safety net for the wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction. More than 85 percent of American voters support a strong Endangered Species Act. Secretary Salazar must begin to undo years of damage to endangered species protections by the Bush administration. The enforcement and implementation of the Endangered Species Act have suffered tremendously as the Bush administration advanced policies and regulations that stripped wildlife of protections. The Obama administration must overturn policies and regulations that greatly undermine the protection and recovery of threatened and endangered species.

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