WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- The Bush administration has proposed regulatory changes that would drop longstanding Endangered Species Act enforcement policies, The Washington Post reported.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, in a conference call with reporters Monday, characterized the proposal as a "narrow regulatory change" that would "provide clarity and certainty" to the process in which federal agencies interact when projects could affect endangered species and plants. Currently, agencies must subject such plans to review by the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The administration would eliminate the independent scientific reviews, which have been required for more than three decades, the Post said.
The proposed new rules would use executive powers to effect changes in the law. Congressional Republicans have failed several times to rewrite the Endangered Species Act, which opponents say is an unreasonable impediment to development.
Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-W.Va.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, told the Post the proposed rule "gives federal agencies an unacceptable degree of discretion to decide whether or not to comply with the Endangered Species Act."
Bob Irvin of Defenders of Wildlife said most federal agencies have no wildlife biologists on staff so the new rule would be "a case of asking the fox to guard the chicken coop."