Delicate Balance Attack on
by Editorial Board
Can a dam - an enormous, concrete, human-constructed barrier that blocks the flow of a major river like the Snake - ever be considered a natural part of the landscape?
The Interior Department apparently believes it can, simply because it exists. In a draft of outrageous new department rules governing the Endangered Species Act, the effect of dams on endangered wild salmon (dams kill them) are simply written out of consideration.
Not that the fish don't die - dams kill from 40 to 60 percent of baby wild salmon swimming to the ocean; on some rivers, dams kill 92 percent. But, under the new rules, the agency just doesn't see a problem with that.
Revising ESA regulations is the latest ploy in the Bush administration attack on the ESA after Congress voted against undercutting the act itself and courts have ruled federal agencies have illegally ignored its provisions.
For example, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week ruled against the administration's 2004 Columbia Basin plan for failing to protect endangered wild salmon, calling it analytical "sleight of hand." So Interior is now trying to dismantle the act from within to placate energy-development, mining and timber interests.
Rewrites would allow federal actions, such as selling drilling permits or allowing hundreds of snowmobiles in pristine national parks, even though they could reduce the chance of Advertisement recovery of an endangered species.
And a proposed new rule says that if a species is surviving within a small range, it cannot be listed as endangered. That rule would result in many fewer species being protected.
The new rules also would irresponsibly give states greater control over endangered species. Federal protection of species is in the national interest and should not be handed over to states where local politics could undermine its goals.
The government's business-friendly efforts to avoid listing new threatened and endangered species dangerously ignores ecological science. The salmon's plight is a good example. As one scientist said, "Many animals, from tiny insects to grizzly bears, depend on salmon for food. So, when salmon are in trouble, all those animals suffer."
The Earth's ecosystems are delicate, and humans are a part of them. To ignore the importance of balance is to put our own survival at risk.
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