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Conservation: Just Follow the Law

by Staff
The Charleston Gazette, October 31, 2006

SOME Western U.S. judges appear to be tired of federal agencies that fall down on the job of protecting the nation's fish, wildlife, streams and forests.

In some cases, the Bush administration's push for more commercial development on Western federal land threatens to undo the environmental legacy of President Richard Nixon, USA Today reported. Federal judges have found that the federal government ignores federal law. Some cases, just since August, include:

The Bush administration's record of distortions is well-documented when it comes to drumming up fervor for the invasion of Iraq, for smearing the names of opponents or for tricking fundamentalists into supporting its causes.

The examples above show that the pattern of behavior - of ignoring inconvenient facts - occurs in land management also.

The The Charleston Gazette noted that in their rulings, judges are using blunt language expressing annoyance with executive branch offices that ignore the nation's laws.

Federal agencies "have repeatedly and collectively failed to demonstrate a willingness to do what is necessary" under the Endangered Species Act, wrote U.S. District Judge James A. Redden in Portland in still another case.

That one involves a stalled federal effort to prevent salmon from becoming extinct in the Columbia and Snake rivers. The judge specifically criticized the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bonneville Power Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps is involved in two more federal cases in West Virginia - both recent challenges to mountaintop removal coal mining. In one, U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin is considering whether to block the Corps from authorizing new valley fills through a streamlined permitting process under the Clean Water Act.

In the other, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition argues that the Corps must do lengthy environmental-impact statements on each of 12 streams that would be buried if Massey Energy is given four permits for different mountaintop removal projects. Such studies are required by federal law "for every major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment." The Corps has replied that it believes the proposed valley fills "won't cause significant adverse effects on human health and the environment."

The executive branch, headed by the president, is required by the Constitution to carry out the nation's laws. This administration simply ignores parts of laws it doesn't like and waits for someone to challenge them. Fortunately, America's 200-year-old system of checks and balances is alive and well, at least among Western judges who insist that the executive branch follow the people's laws.

Conservation: Just Follow the Law
The Charleston Gazette, October 31, 2006

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