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For Immediate Release, April 9, 2009

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

50,000 Petitions Delivered to Interior Secretary Salazar Requesting He
Rescind Bush Regulations That Weaken the Endangered Species Act

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The Center for Biological Diversity today delivered nearly 50,000 petitions to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar requesting that he rescind two rules passed in the final days of the Bush administration that weaken the Endangered Species Act. One of these rules exempts thousands of federal activities, including those that generate greenhouse gases, from review under the Endangered Species Act, and the other sharply limits protections for the threatened polar bear.

Congress passed legislation on March 10 giving Secretary Salazar power during the following 60 days to rescind both rules with the stroke of a pen or until May 9. Despite the fact that half of the 60 days have passed, Secretary Salazar has given no indication of whether he will use the power granted by Congress.

“President Obama, Congress and now the American people have all expressed opposition to the Bush administration regulations,” said Bill Snape, who delivered the petitions and is senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity. “It has been 30 days since Congress gave Secretary Salazar authority to rescind these rules, yet to date, we’ve heard nothing from the secretary on whether he intends to use this authority.”

The Bush rules allow federal agencies to determine for themselves whether their actions are likely to harm endangered species and thus whether they need independent scientific review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries services. The rules also prohibit any consideration of the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions from federal projects on endangered species like the polar bear. Greenhouse gas emissions are currently predicted to result in loss of two-thirds of the world’s polar bear population by 2050. If the rules are allowed to remain in place, the Fish and Wildlife Service will not be able to consider and mitigate such impacts.

“These regulations are a disaster for the nation’s endangered species,” said Snape. “This is a major test for Secretary Salazar — we need to know whether he will live up to President Obama’s commitment to support a strong Endangered Species Act.”

On April 3, 44 members of the House of Representatives, including seven committee chairman and several other high-ranking leaders, sent a letter to secretaries Salazar and Locke urging them to use the authority to rescind the rules.

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