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NEWS BULLETIN

April 28, 2009 --- Vol. 15, No. 39April 2009

DOI, DOC revoke Bush administration Endangered Species Act rule

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke announced today that their departments are revoking an Endangered Species Act regulation change published in December, in the final months of the Bush administration.

The regulation change had given federal agencies a stronger role in determining when they had to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding agency actions that might affect an endangered species. When in 2008 DOI and DOC proposed the regulation changes they said that they were clarifying the ESA procedures as a follow up to a Government Accountability Office 2004 report, in response to “new challenges we face with regard to global warming and climate change” and to avoid unwarranted consultations.

But environmental organizations called foul, saying that the rule change undermined the effectiveness of the ESA.

And in March President Obama instructed government agencies to review the December regulation changes and, meantime, to “follow the prior longstanding consultation and concurrence practices” involving FWS and NMFS.

The ESA “reflects one of the nation’s profound commitments,” Obama said.

Following the decision announced today, government agencies will revert to the pre-December ESA procedures.

“By rolling back this 11th hour regulation, we are ensuring that threatened and endangered species continue to receive the full protection of the law,” Salazar said. “Because science must serve as the foundation for decisions we make, federal agencies proposing to take actions that might affect threatened and endangered species will once again have to consult with biologists at the two departments.”

CORRECTION

The final sentence of the news bulletin item below, sent out earlier today, should read that Foothills off-road travel closed April 26, NOT May 26. A corrected version of that bulletin is included below.

CORRECTED: All state lands now closed to off-road travel

Effective at noon today the Alaska Department of Natural Resources has closed remaining state-owned lands to off-road tundra travel.

Gary Schultz, natural resource manager for DNR’s Division of Mining, Land and Water, said in a statement today that as of noon, “all state-owned lands on the North Slope (Upper Foothills, Lower Foothills, Eastern Coastal and Western Coastal Tundra Opening Areas) are closed to off-road travel.”

Off-road travel in progress must be completed within 72 hours — by noon, May 1 — he said.

Any exceptions require prior approval by the division.

Foothills off-road travel was closed at noon April 26.

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