Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Endangered Species & Endangered Roads

1) The Endangered Species Act looks to be somewhat endangered itself, which might be a very good thing.

Excerpts from the Los Angeles Times story.

“WASHINGTON — The Bush administration Monday proposed a regulatory overhaul of the Endangered Species Act to allow federal agencies to decide whether protected species would be imperiled by agency projects, eliminating the independent scientific reviews that have been required for more than three decades.

“The new rules, which will be subject to a 30-day comment period, would use administrative powers to make broad changes in the law that Congress has resisted for years. Under current law, agencies must subject any plans that potentially affect endangered animals and plants to an independent review by scientists at the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service. Under the proposed new rules, dam and highway construction and other federal projects could proceed without delay if the agency in charge decides they would not harm vulnerable species…

“Bob Irvin, senior vice president of conservation programs at the advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife, questioned how some federal agencies could make the assessments, when most do not have wildlife biologists on staff.

"Clearly, that's a case of asking the fox to guard the chicken coop," Irvin said, adding that the original law created "a giant caution light that made federal agencies stop and think about the impacts of their actions. What the Bush administration is telling those agencies is they don't have to think about those impacts anymore."

“But Dale Hall, who directs the Fish and Wildlife Service, said the move would not apply to major federal projects and would give his agency more time to focus on the most critically endangered species, rather than conducting reviews of projects that pose little threat.

"We have to have the ability to put our efforts where they're needed," Hall said, adding that individual agencies will have to take responsibility if their projects do harm a protected species. "This really says to the agencies, 'This law belongs to all of us. You're responsible to defend it.' "

2) If global warming turns out to be something other than man-made, as hundreds of scientists recently testified to the US Senate might surely be the case, then seriously impeding the ability of our economy to grow and our citizens to travel about, will prove to be a disaster, and this recent hold-up of the highway 50 expansion is one example.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“In what appears to be a California first, state highway officials are shelving a major Highway 50 widening plan in Sacramento until they can study whether the expansion will contribute to global warming.

“The state Department of Transportation announced Tuesday it will not fight a Sacramento court ruling that the agency conducted an incomplete environmental review for a project that would add lanes on the congested Rancho Cordova freeway.

“For commuters in the fast-growing Highway 50 corridor, it means no new freeway elbow room – if any at all – until at least 2014.

“The added lanes, planned between Sunrise Boulevard and Watt Avenue, would be designated for carpools, buses and high-mileage vehicles during morning and afternoon commutes.

“The freeway already has carpool lanes between Sunrise Boulevard and El Dorado Hills, and Caltrans officials have talked of extending carpool lanes into downtown Sacramento.”