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Oh, yes you do.

Mar 2009
Diane Laurin

Conservation and wildlife organizations cheered last month when President Barack Obama overturned a dumbfounding conservation regulation issued by former President George W. Bush during his final days in office.

The Bush rule in short directed that federal agencies no longer had to consult with federal wildlife experts before taking actions that might affect plants or animals protected by the Endangered Species Act.

On March 3, Mr. Obama sensibly countered with “yes you do.’’ In a memorandum, Mr. Obama told federal agencies that they must continue to consult with experts from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or National Marine Fisheries Service. The memorandum also asked the Interior and Commerce Departments to review controversial regulations from the Bush administration that would weaken protections for the country’s most endangered plants and wildlife.

Addressing attendees of an Interior Department anniversary event, Mr. Obama said, “The work of scientists and experts in my administration, including right here in the Interior Department, will be respected. For more than three decades, the Endangered Species Act has successfully protected our nation’s most threatened wildlife, and we should be looking for ways to improve it – not weaken it.”

Criticizing the memorandum was Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Washington, and ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, who claimed that the restored regulation could “create vast new climate change powers without any public comment of involvement of the American people.”

But Mr. Bush’s penchant for hamstringing science in the White House in this case set conservation protocol back 35 years, and it shows in the many environmental policy changes he pushed through before leaving the White House. Mr. Obama has wisely made science a priority when it comes to such policies.

The Sierra Club’s executive director, Carl Pope, said it best: “These midnight regulations represented all the disdain for science and political trumping of expertise that characterized the Bush Administration’s efforts to dismantle fundamental environmental laws.”

In this day and age, it’s misguided to think that environmental policies, wildlife protection and economic stability can’t be accomplished one and all. That kind of thinking undermines the talents of our scientists, business leaders and, yes, politicians.

We best acknowledge Mr. Pope when he says, “Our wildlife are clearly in much better hands now.”

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