The Obama administration recently set aside a great deal of “critical habitat” for polar bears along Alaska’s north coast, but taking a broader look at the work it has done with regards to endangered species brings a lot of disappointment. The Clinton administration provided Endangered Species Act protection to an average of 65 species a year, while the Obama administration is only at a rate of 25 a year. It is more than the Bush administration’s 8 a year, but it definitely leaves something to be desired.
251 species are sitting in line as candidates for endangered species protection at the moment, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service, some of which have been sitting in line for decades. Furthermore, at least 24 species have gone extinct while sitting in that line.
“Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration is failing to provide prompt protection to wildlife desperately in need of protection,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“Greenwald said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has failed to correct a longtime ‘culture of delay and foot-dragging’ at the Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the endangered species program,” Matthew Daly of The Huffington Post reports. “The agency has been without a permanent director since February, when former director Sam Hamilton died. All but one of the service’s eight regional directors are holdovers from the Bush administration.”
On the positive side, the Obama administration has reportedly done a lot to fix systemic problems left by the Bush administration.
[Tom Strickland, assistant Interior secretary for fish, wildlife and parks], who also serves as Salazar’s chief of staff, said the Obama administration has taken steps to restore credibility to the endangered species program, which he said had been damaged under the previous administration.
First, Salazar directed that listing decisions be based on science rather than politics, in response to a scandal involving Julie MacDonald, a former Bush official who was found to have exerted improper political interference on range of endangered species decisions.
Second, the department reinstated a rule – dropped by the Bush administration – requiring government agencies to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service on actions that could affect endangered species.
Things to be thankful for, but also a lot that could be better.
Read more on The Huffington Post: Obama Endangered Species Agenda Not Moving Quickly, Critics Say.
1. Are Polar Bears “Threatened” or “Endangered”? U.S. Judge Pushing Obama Administration to Clarify
2. 1/5 of Animals Facing Extinction: Mass Extinction is Here
3. U.S. and Andorra Only Two Countries Not at Convention of Biodiversity
Photo Credit: Eric Vondy via flickr (CC license)