Last year, the outgoing Bush administration pushed through a regulation removing the need for federal agencies to consult with biologists on environmental reviews. This afternoon, the Interior and Commerce Departments jointly announced that they would restore the old rule under special authority granted by Congress.
President Obama called for a review of the rule last month. Today, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Kempthorne's successor, and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a joint statement that scientific evidence justified restoring the independent reviews that Fish and Wildlife and NOAA had conducted for decades.This is obviously good news for threatened species, though how good depends on how strictly the new administration enforces the Endangered Species Act. It would help if the Interior Department could start to work through the long backlog of species needing protection.
"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."
Here is the joint press release (pdf).