Greens are worried that the Bush administration is rushing to loosen rules protecting endangered species before its term is up in January. The controversy stems over a recent White House decision to limit the public comment period on a contentious proposal to allow federal agencies approving or funding dams, highways and other projects to decide for themselves whether endangered species could be harmed—without input from government experts.
The Interior Department set a 30-day public comment period last week on the proposal; they had originally promised a 60-day comment period. Meanwhile, representatives of 103 nonprofit organizations submitted a letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez asking to quadruple the time for public comment from 30 to 120 days and to hold public hearings. Various congressional Democrats are also calling for extending the comment period, which would give opponents of the plan more time to rally opposition and would essentially leave the decision in the hands of the next president.