Endangered Species Act Changes Give Agencies More Say
By Juliet Eilperin Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, August 12, 2008; A01
The Bush administration yesterday proposed a regulatory overhaul of the Endangered Species Act to allow federal agencies to decide whether protected species would be imperiled by agency projects, eliminating the independent scientific reviews that have been required for more than three decades.
The new rules, which will be subject to a 30-day per comment period, would use administrative powers to make broad changes in the law that Congress has resisted for years. Under current law, agencies must subject any plans that potentially affect endangered animals and plants to an independent review by the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service. Under the proposed new rules, dam and highway construction and other federal projects could proceed without delay if the agency in charge decides they would not harm vulnerable species.
In a telephone call with reporters yesterday, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne described the new rules as a "narrow regulatory change" that "will provide clarity and certainty to the consultation process under the Endangered Species Act."
Clarity and certainty are certainly and clearly needed--no doubt about it.
In eight years of representative government dominated by administrative fiat, an utterly prostrate Congress finds itself unable to stop George Bush's destruction of government 'of, by and for the people' on his way to January 20th.
Congressional law? Changed by Bush signing statements as he cares to change it. Agencies of government? Hog-tied and tossed in the corner by an army of Bush's twenty-something appointees. Now, on his way out of office, he introduces 'new rule' after 'new rule' by presidential decree.
Why? Because it serves private interest and Bush is locked in the embrace of private interest.
How can he do this? Because a befuddled and hapless Congress, led by the hapless Nancy Pelosi and the befuddled Harry Reid can't find their spine and save what is left of representative government. It is there to be saved, but Dennis Kucinich cannot carry the effort on his back without the support of fellow representatives.
Why the reluctance? They might be found 'weak on terrorism,' although it's difficult to understand what gutting agency after agency has to do with terrorism. We citizens are both helpless to effect change and enabling spinelessness by our lack of outrage.
86% of Americans disapprove of Congress as representatives of our representative form of government sink below the level of lawyers and used-car salesmen in public esteem. Yet we are not in the streets.
The rape of Georgia--a nation thousands of miles away from America--fills the front pages, while America twists in its own winds of demagoguery. Somehow Joe McCarthy (or perhaps Charlie McCarthy) has become president and dismantled the country while we were frightened.
Nancy Pelosi can't find 'a law that George Bush has broken,' although a perfectly clear and legal 50-page indictment exists . . . and so impeachment, the only weapon the Constitution gives us against presidential 'crimes and misdemeanors' remains off her table.
A crime, Nancy is defined as "an act punishable by law; usually considered an evil act." A misdemeanor is defined as "a crime less serious than a felony."
What is it about 'crimes and misdemeanors' that you don't understand? I realize that you are a political science major, who also holds a master's degree in public administration. I further realize you may be more politically administrative than constitutionally informed. But the oath of office is not taken to administer, but to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. A sacred oath, Nancy. Taken on a bible.
To date, much (far too much) administration, no protection, no defense.
We seem for some reason, since the bad old days of Newt Gingrich, to look for and (unfortunately) find our leaders among wrestling coaches and public administrators. That may be an appropriate metaphor for the state of America in 2008--that and the elevation of a failed businessman and recovering alcoholic to the presidency.
And we worry instead if John McCain is too old or Barack Obama too elite.
The president may be correct after all. Men of character have become as endangered species as spotted owls or snail-darter minnows. Maybe it's long past time to gut the act that allows them protection. Or, alternatively, to get real in this fine nation of ours:
To put a value on forests, wetlands and wild land for their own sake, for what they mean to our humanity and culture, rather than pinning their future to an owl or minnow.
To impeach presidents, not for their sexual indiscretions, but for crimes and misdemeanors against the office they hold and the nation they represent.
To vote out of office those congressional representatives who fail to honor the oath they took on our behalf.
Or not. The voters in San Francisco will have just that opportunity on November 4th. San Francisco has (self) styled itself as a bastion of liberal thought and it will be interesting to see if that commitment extends to something as illiberal, old fashioned and (perhaps) archaic as the defense and protection of the Constitution of the United States. Who wins the White House may be the least emblematic aspect of the San Francisco choice.