Greens Sue over Political Interference in Endangered Species Cases

The Eastern Pelican could be de-listed from endangered status if federal officials get their way.©

Environmentalists are taking the Bush administration to task for political interference in dozens of cases of endangered species listings. The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity last week filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Department of Interior for improper interference with 55 different endangered species cases in 28 states over the course of the last several years. The lawsuit maintains that unqualified, non-scientist bureaucrats edited scientific documents, overruled scientific experts, and falsified economic analyses to justify lessening endangered species protections mandated by federal law.

At stake in the suit is the removal of one species from the endangered species list, the refusal to grant Endangered Species Act protections to three other species, proposals to remove or downgrade protection for seven animals, and the stripping of protection from 8.7 million acres of critical habitat for a long list of species across the country.

"This is the biggest legal challenge against political interference in the history of the Endangered Species Act," says Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "It puts the Bush administration on trial at every level for systematically squelching government scientists and installing a cadre of political hatchet men in positions of power."

Suckling maintains that the de-emphasis on endangered species protection comes straight from the White House. He adds that the Bush administration used Julie MacDonald, the embattled former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior who resigned in disgrace following allegations of misconduct on several endangered species listing cases, as a scapegoat.

"The corruption goes much deeper than one disgraced bureaucrat," says Suckling, who hopes the national lawsuit will help "expose just how thoroughly the disdain for science and for wildlife pervades the Bush administration’s endangered species program."

Source: Center for Biological Diversity