Obama restores Endangered Species Act protections

Presidential memorandum initiates review and eventual replacement of Bush administration's eleventh-hour weakening of endangered species conservation

(03/03/2009) - WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama today vowed to let science guide decisions at the Department of the Interior, and recognized the vital role of the Endangered Species Act in protecting America’s imperiled wildlife.

Speaking from the halls of the Department of the Interior, President Obama requested that federal agencies continue to consult with federal wildlife experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or National Marine Fisheries Service regarding actions that might impact threatened and endangered species. Today’s memorandum also requests the Interior and Commerce Departments to review controversial Bush-era regulations that weakened protections for the nation’s most imperiled plants, fish, birds and other animals.

The following is a statement from Jamie Rappaport Clark, executive vice president for Defenders of Wildlife and former director of the FWS.

“It’s refreshing to hear good news for endangered species coming from the White House. By restoring the requirement for federal agencies to get agreement from federal wildlife experts on the effects of their projects, President Obama has begun the process of returning oversight and accountability under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are the ‘keepers of the flame’ for imperiled plants and animals. We look forward to working with the administration to permanently withdraw the flawed Bush administration regulations and restore the Section 7 consultation procedures that have been successfully used for more than 20 years.

“President Obama waited less than six weeks after taking office to visit the Department of the Interior, declare his support for the goals of the Endangered Species Act, and begin to restore public trust in the Department that manages a fifth of our country’s land. By contrast, former President Bush waited until the final six months of his presidency before visiting the Department of the Interior, after his administration spent years politically manipulating science and decision-making at the Department. What a welcome change!”

Learn more about what Defenders is doing to help endangered species.

First proposed by the Department of the Interior in August 2008, the Bush administration changes to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act would have eliminated the requirement that agencies seek advice from expert biologists with federal wildlife agencies in decisions about whether dams, towers, highways and other projects will likely harm imperiled species. 

Approximately 200,000 comments opposing the changes were submitted to the Interior Department in the 60 days it allowed for the public to respond to the changes.


Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come.  For more information, visit www.defenders.org.




James Navarro, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-0247

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