Since assuming his first presidential term in 2001, George Bush has made protecting vanishing species more difficult than the two presidents before him. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed in 1973 with the stated purpose of protecting species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The Act encompasses plants and invertebrates as well as vertebrates.
The ESA is administered by two federal agencies – the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – and contains a citizen suit clause which allows private citizens to sue the government to enforce the law.
But the Act hasn’t stopped Bush from using bureaucratic tactics which block, prevent, and discourage listing of impending endangered species and plants. At the higher levels of management, agencies tend to be populated by administration picks who share the views of the one who appointed them. In this case, Bush, who has never been seen to be a friend of the environment. Those who are at lower levels simply kowtow to their supervisors.
With agency personnel falling line with Bush’s philosophies, the administration has brought into play the following disastrous policies and procedures which fall into four categories:
agency personnel have been barred from using information in agency files which might support new listings
senior agency advisors have repeatedly dismissed the views of scientists by rejecting nominees or by removing others from the protected list
agency officials have changed the method by which plants and animals are placed on the list by looking at where they are now found rather than where they originally existed
agency officials have blocked citizen petitions which must meet critical deadlines
Despite outside interests such as farming, developers, and business work against listing of species for obvious reasons, the first President Bush and President Clinton listed an average of 58 (231 total) and 62 (521 total) species, respectively, per year during their presidencies.
The lack of concern shown by the Bush administration is not surprising – he has almost always landed on the side of those businesses that want to raze lands for more development. What better way to help accomplish those goals than to remove as many obstacles as possible. The problem is that what Bush sees as obstacles in the form of endangered species others see as integral components of our environment.