Friday, October 03, 2008

A Second Look for Marbled Murrelets

The Bush administration has announced that it will reconsider its previous decisions about protections for marbled murrelets in response to a timber industry lawsuit.

In a Federal Register filing obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity and scheduled for publication Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it will consider "the rangewide status of the species, and if necessary, the configuration and status of any distinct population segments."

Much of the previous maneuvering had to do with whether the birds in California, Oregon and Washington are a "distinct population segment," unlike murrelets in British Columbia and Alaska. The law protects such a distinct segment of an animal's population.

The Bush administration's previous finding said the Lower 48's birds did not qualify. But Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity noted that the Federal Register notice itself concludes the decision was "flawed."
It is hard to predict what decisions this review will produce, but since most of the work will be done after Bush leaves office, there may actually be an evidence-based decision instead of an ideological one. If so, it would be a change for the better, regardless of the outcome.