Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How to Comment on Regulatory Changes to the Endangered Species Act

Last week the Department of the Interior announced that it would allow individual federal agencies to conduct and approve their own environmental assessments for new projects. This represents a major change from current practice. Currently, environmental reviews must be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service for approval. Review by an qualified, impartial authority gives greater protection to any endangered or threatened species that may be affected by a federal project.

Allowing individual agencies to approve their own assessments presents two problems. First, few agencies keep qualified biologists on staff, so the assessments will likely be reviewed by someone with little expertise in conservation matters. Second, officials at individual agencies are likely to want their own projects to be completed with minimal difficulty and will be more likely to overlook potential threats to biodiversity. (We all know what the result of that is likely to be.)

Fortunately, the proposed regulations are subject to public comment before going into effect. Unfortunately, the Fish and Wildlife Service has made commenting more difficult by rejecting email and fax comments and shortening the comment period to 30 days. (Comment periods are usually open much longer.)

You can comment in one of two ways:

  1. Mail letters to:
    Public Comment Processing,
    Attention: 1018-AT50
    Division of Policy and Directives Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service
    4401 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 222,
    Arlington, VA 22203

  2. Visit (or here) and submit your comments via the website.
Comments must be submitted by September 15.

[Note: Thanks to Jonathan Talbot for posting this information in comments to last week's post.]