When it comes to environmental issues, the Bush Administration is known for being friendly to the concept of “states” rights.” In practice, that phrase has meant western states have been able to make their own policy—including drilling for oil and grazing cattle on public land (see “Seeking Sanctuary,” features, March/April 2003). States are now encouraged to set endangered species policy through Wildlife Action Plans, which were approved by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne in February.
“The plans identify what species and habitats are declining, but not yet officially threatened or endangered,” says Kempthorne. “Now we can act before it is too late.”In this case, environmentalists say, the states can play a positive role—but there are some caveats. Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity, says that “having the state wildlife plans is a step forward, but it’s important to know that they differ radically. California and Massachusetts have strong plans with concrete goals, but Arizona and Wyoming, for instance, offer general platitudes and promises, with no regulatory targets.”
Implementing the plans has been a top priority for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). “The State Wildlife Grants Program is the only source of federal funding specifically directed at all wildlife, including the nearly 90 percent of all species that are not hunted or fished,” the group says. “We are big believers,” adds John Kostyack, director of wildlife conservation campaigns. “We think the plans have great promise to stimulate a lot of on-the-ground conservation action.”
National Teaming with Wildlife Coalition. (202) 624-7890