Inferior Department: Too Much Turkey, Not Enough Beef

This fall the Bush Administration, led by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and others, has been working to gut the Endangered Species Act by shifting responsibility for the Act away from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and passing it out piecemeal to government agencies in charge of dam building, highway construction, and other forms of development.  In other words, handing the henhouse keys to the fox.  (Even though this metaphor doesn’t quite work it’s still more effective than any non-wildlife government agency would be at implementing the Endangered Species Act. ) 

Now, the day after Thanksgiving, we get this Black Friday garter snake news that the USFWS does not even have the funds to carry out its own responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act.  It should be no surprise that the first warnings of new danger for our wildlife come from a reptile.  How we treat reptiles is often a very good sign of how we will soon treat “higher” animals.  Check out the Center for Biological Diversity website to keep abreast of how the U.S. government is doing on wildlife protection.  Here’s the story from the Tucson Citizen:

Feds: No funds to list garter snake as endangered
by B. POOLE <mailto:bpoole@tucsoncitizen.com>
Published: 11.26.2008, Tucson Citizen

A snake native to southern Arizona deserves endangered species protection,
but the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has no resources to make that happen,
the service said this week.

The northern Mexican garter snake’s listing is precluded by higher-priority
species and will be reviewed in a year, the service said Monday.

“The northern Mexican garter snake faces significant threats in the United
States and Mexico. However, we don’t have the resources at this time to
engage in the listing process for all species nationally that warrant
Endangered Species Act protection,” said Steve Spangle, Arizona field
supervisor for Fish & Wildlife.

More than 250 species are candidates for protection under the Endangered
Species Act, leaving the service to prioritize plants and animals to take
through the peer review, agency and public comment period. Though the
service rejected the snake as a candidate in 2006, further declines in
Arizona and Mexico prompted this week’s decision, the service said in a news
release.

Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director for the Center for Biological
Diversity, is dismayed by the feds’ delay, he said.

“This is a very common tactic for them,” Greenwald said, referring to the
Bush administration’s record on endangered species listings.

The center sued Fish & Wildlife over 282 species, including this snake, that
have been named candidate species under Bush. Just 61 have been listed,
Greenwald said.

The Clinton administration listed 521 and Bush’s father 231, he said.

The lawsuit calls for a schedule for listing of unlisted species deemed
worthy of protection.

The sheer number of backlogged listings shows the Bush administration has
not made “expeditious progress,” a requirement for precluded listing,
Greenwald said.

The center is hoping for better progress under the Barack Obama
administration, Greenwald said.

“We would hope for a schedule for all 282 species, including the garter
snake,” he said.

The northern Mexican garter snake, which can grow to more than 3 feet, is
native to northern Mexico, the southern half of Arizona and western New
Mexico.

The snake lives in dense brush along waterways and has been threatened by
non-native species that compete for food and by human development.

Because the species is threatened by non-native species, controlling those
species – including crayfish, bullfrogs and some fish – could help the snake
recover, Fish & Wildlife said.

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