Enviros Threaten Legal Action on Behalf of 55 Endangered Species

TUCSON, Arizona, August 30, 2007 (ENS) - The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Department of the Interior for political interference with 55 endangered species in 28 states. The notice initiates the largest substantive legal action in the 34 year history of the Endangered Species Act.

At stake in the suit is the illegal removal of one animal from the endangered species list, the refusal to place three animals on the list, proposals to remove or downgrade protection for seven animals, and the stripping of protection from 8.7 million acres of critical habitat for a long list of species from Washington State to Minnesota and Texas.

"This is the biggest legal challenge against political interference in the history of the Endangered Species Act," said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity.

"It puts the Bush administration on trial at every level for systematically squelching government scientists and installing a cadre of political hatchet men in positions of power," he said.

Many of the decisions at issue were engineered by Julie MacDonald, the former deputy assistant secretary of the interior who resigned in disgrace following a scathing investigation by the inspector general of misconduct at the Department of the Interior.

Other decisions challenged in this lawsuit were ordered by MacDonald's boss, Assistant Secretary of the Interior Craig Manson, his special assistant Randal Bowman, and Ruth Solomon in the White House Office of Management and Budget. Some decisions were ordered by lower-level bureaucrats, the group claims.

"The Bush administration has tried to keep a lid on its growing endangered species scandal by scapegoating Julie MacDonald," said Suckling, "but the corruption goes much deeper than one disgraced bureaucrat. It reaches into the White House itself through the Office of Management and Budget."

"By attacking the problem systematically through this national lawsuit, we will expose just how thoroughly the distain for science and for wildlife pervades the Bush administrationís endangered species program," he said.

In many of the cases, government and university scientists documented the editing of scientific documents, overruling of scientific experts, and falsification of economic analyses.

Among the 55 species in the legal filing are the marbled murrelet, a seabird that nests on land in California, Oregon and Washington; the Florida manatee found in waters from South Carolina to Texas; the Arctic grayling, a fish found in Montana waters; and the West Virginia northern flying squirrel.

Some of the other species on the legal filing are the California least tern; the California red-legged frog and the arroyo toad that also inhabits California; the Mexican garter snake found in Arizona; the brown pelican found in Louisiana, Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; the piping plover, a bird found from North Carolina to Texas; and the Preble's jumping meadow mouse that still survives in Colorado and Wyoming.

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