[Taxacom] FOR SCIENTISTS IN THE US - Strengthening the Scientific Basis of the Endangered Species Act

Francesca Grifo fgrifo at ucsusa.org
Tue Apr 14 12:32:29 CDT 2009

I am writing to draw your attention to a scientist letter that urges the Obama administration to strengthen the scientific foundation of the Endangered Species Act: 
In January the Bush administration pushed through a change to the Endangered Species Act that allows federal agencies (sometimes without biological expertise) to decide for themselves to what degree their own projects will impact endangered wildlife, eliminating the requirement for independent scientific review (known as Section 7 consultations). The new process removes the expert opinions of the government scientists who, for decades, have provided critical analysis of the consequences of federal projects for endangered species, and replaces them with the uneven oversight of agencies with potential conflicts of interest and probably without the relevant scientific expertise.
Just as importantly, the rules also sharply limit the types of information federal scientists can consider when evaluating federal projects. By compromising the quality and independence of scientific review, the rules undermine effective protections for wildlife and their habitats.
This issue received significant news coverage and sparked outrage from the scientific community. In early March, President Obama recognized the success of the Endangered Species Act and expressed concerns about the new rules, saying that "we should be looking for ways to improve it - not weaken it." In response, Congress passed a spending bill in March containing a provision that gives the secretaries of Interior and Commerce the authority to rescind the controversial rules. 
One month later, neither Secretary Salazar nor Secretary Locke have rolled back the flawed changes, leading to concerns that they will simply let the deadline pass. Sources within the Obama administration have indicated that support from the scientific community would help convince the secretaries to act. A similar letter, issued in 2006 and signed by more than 5,000 biologists, was widely credited with convincing Congress to stop misguided legislation that would have gutted the scientific underpinnings of the Endangered Species Act. 

The letter is intended for scientists with biological expertise who possess or are working towards an advanced degree in a relevant field who are US citizens living anywhere in the world or with any citizenship who are currently working in the US. The deadline for signing the letter is April 22, as the Obama administration has until May 8 to act. The Union of Concerned Scientists, Society for Conservation Biology, and Center for Biological Diversity are providing logistical support for this effort. We will deliver the letter to the secretaries at the end of April. Please sign on to this letter urging Secretaries Salazar and Locke to help restore scientific integrity to the Endangered Species Act by rolling back the flawed rule changes: 
Thank you for your consideration of this critical issue and thanks for forwarding it out to your many networks!
More information: 
President Obama's remarks: 
Sign the letter: 
Once you have signed, tell your colleagues about this effort: 
Francesca T. Grifo, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist and Director
Scientific Integrity Program
1825 K Street NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC   20006-1232
202-331-5446 (direct)
202-223-6133 (main number)
202-223-6162 (fax)

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