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Obama and the new ESA

June 26, 2009

Spend any time watching the mainstream media and you’d be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that critique of the Obama administration comes solely from the right. And maybe most of it is, but Obama is, for the most part, a centrist democrat on most issues, and such a simplistic view misses the legitimate concerns of the progressive end of the political spectrum. This is especially true in the environmental lobby, a group of people and organizations with as long a laundry list of projects as any.

Following the dismal environmental record of the Bush years should be a snap. The previous administration’s place in the environmental hall of shame is secure. Their slow bleeding of landmark environmental legislation like the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air and Water Acts would be enough even without the staggering corruption and baucchanalian sex and drugs atmosphere of Dirk Kempthorne’s Department of the Interior.

When Obama nominated Colorado senator Ken Salazar to head a cabinet department left in tatters, environmentalists were cautious, but optimistic. Four months in, there’s nothing there to assuage that cautiousness, as in a report by the non-profit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, brough to my attention via the excellent blog The Clade, Obama still has a long way to go

His nomination to head the Fish and Wildlife Service, the government agency tasked with administering among other things, the aforementioned Endangered Species Act, is Sam Hamilton, lately of the Southeast regional office of the FWS. The problem, as explained by PEER…

Since 1997, Hamilton has overseen the 10-state FWS Southeastern Region, which has the biggest and most numerous endangered species issues of any region. FWS records covering the three year period 2004 through 2006, the latest available, show that Hamilton’s region conducted 5,974 reviews (called consultations) of development permits or other federal agency actions. Yet Hamilton issued only one objection, called a jeopardy opinion or letter. By contrast, during the same period the FWS Rocky Mountain Region had less than one tenth as many consultations (586) but issued 100 jeopardy opinions.

Ugh. Of all the people, right?

This is only the latest of indications that suggest Obama made a poor decision in Salazar to oversee the nation’s public lands. Already, he’s already cleared the way for wolf hunting in the western interior, allowed for triple the amount of sea turtle bycatch in Hawaiian swordfish fisheries, and delayed the listing of the Yellow-billed Loon using the same procedural tricks so reviled by his predecessor.

Should we have been surprised, though? Obama’s campaign rhetoric (that of all the candidates, really) was largely concerned with climate change legislation, and it appears that that is where he intends to throw his political capital at the expense of habitat and biodiversity issues. Progessives cheered the selection of Steven Chu to head the Department of Energy, and rightly so, but Ken Salazar appears to be a lemon, and that awfully reflects poorly on Obama.

Sad to say, but it looks like business as usual at Interior.

  1. nishiki_85 permalink
    June 26, 2009 2:24 pm

    I would guess Salazar has never read Farley Mowat's 'Never Cry Wolf'.

    Too bad for the wolves they really do get a bad rap. I observed my first wild Gray Wolf last week. Not for one second did I see it as the nasty, vicious animal some lobbysts would have us believe.

  2. Jay permalink
    June 27, 2009 7:24 pm

    Hi Nate. Wanted to stop by, say hi, and thank you. And…(wow) it sure does look like Salazar is a lemon, indeed. So sad that it's so true that it is business as usual. Thanks for all you do and for helping. Looking forward to seeing more of your blog!

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