A tale of two press releases

 

Yet another last minute rule change has come down from the Bush administration. It hasn't hit the mainstream press yet -- the only information that's been published about it comes from the BLM itself and from a coalition of environmental groups.

The press releases describe the BLM's recent revisions to a manual that tells land managers how to handle rare and federally endangered species. Naturally, they offer vastly different takes on the meaning of those changes.

The release from the Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Native Ecosystems is titled: Land Management Changes Undermine Wildlife Conservation on Public Lands.

The federal agency heads its release: BLM Announces New Guidance Enhancing the Protection and Recovery of Rare Species on 258 Million Acres of Federal Lands. (Oh, and despite the fact that the previous link goes to something called the Hurricane Valley Journal, in Utah, it's not an actual news story, it's just a reprint of the press release. Shame on the Journal.)


In the releases themselves, the enviros say:

Among the sweeping changes to the Bureau of Land Management Special Status Species Manual are new policy directives that undermine protections for endangered and threatened plants, limit efforts to protect those species officially awaiting protection under the Endangered Species Act, make it prohibitively difficult to protect sensitive species found in multiple states, and eliminate some protections for state-protected species found on federal lands.

While the BLM says:

... the revised policies will assist the agency in focusing its efforts on those rare species where BLM actions can most effectively contribute to successful conservation. In addition to those species designated by the BLM as Bureau sensitive, the BLM will treat as Bureau sensitive all federally designated candidate species, as well as delisted species in the five years following their delisting.

The enviros say:

The changes to the Bureau of Land Management’s manual weaken the agency’s commitment to keeping some populations of rare species from falling so low they require the protection of the Endangered Species Act to prevent extinction.  In Colorado, 35 species, including kit fox, swift fox, river otters, sandhill cranes, and burrowing owls, would lose protection under this provision of the BLM’s policy manual. In California, hundreds of State listed species could loose (sic) protection on federal public lands including the wolverine and the Great grey owl.

While the BLM says:

The BLM’s special status species policies set forth the procedures by which ("Bureau sensitive") species will be managed to ensure their recovery or promote their conservation so that protections afforded under the ESA or BLM policy are no longer warranted.

But the agency's release says nothing about keeping those species off the endangered list in the first place.

So, whose press release has the higher degree of "truthiness"? The green groups tend to exaggerate the dire consequences of policy changes. But given the Bush administration's many other attempts to make harmful new rules seem benign, I'd vote for the enviros. It looks like these changes will result in even more species becoming candidates for the federal endangered list, because they'll no longer get special protection when they're listed just at the state level. And, in keeping with other recent ESA changes, this new guidance apparently also lets industry avoid mandatory consultations with wildlife experts about projects that might harm endangered species.

And just in case the public objects, say the green groups:

In a rare but telling move, the manual change includes citations to several court cases where BLM avoided obligations under the Endangered Species Act.Though not a common addition to BLM’s operating manuals, these citations seem designed to provide federal land managers with justification for scaling back their protective efforts on behalf of at-risk wildlife and plants.

Always good to have ammo.

High Country News Classifieds
  • WATER POLICY ANALYST WITH WRA (BOULDER)
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates seeks a passionate Water Policy Analyst with knowledge of western water issues to join our Healthy Rivers Team to strengthen...
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST
    9+ acre inholding. Passive solar strawbale off the grid and next to the Continental Divide Trail in ponderosa pine/doug fir forest at 7400.
  • HIRING BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER DIRECTOR
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring an Education Center Director to oversee the operation of the Bears Ears Education Center....
  • PROGRAM MANAGER, SUSTAINING FLOWS
    Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE - VERDE RIVER EXCHANGE
    Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • CODE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • ARCHITECTURE DRAFTSPERSON/PROJECT MANAGER
    Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • ASSISTANT MANAGER/TRAINEE, COLORADO RANCH
    needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • FARM HAND &/OR NANNY IN ESCALANTE
    Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM STRAWBALE HOME IN WESTERN COLORADO!
    Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • FORMER RETREAT CENTER/CONSERVATION PROPERTY FOR SALE
    57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • ARIZONA PUBLIC LANDS ORGANIZER
    Title: Public Lands Organizer About the Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) The AWF is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and assisting individuals and organizations...
  • HISTORIC RANCH HOME W/ 20 ACRES
    Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL OPERATIONS
    The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners seeks an experienced fundraiser with excellent communication and organizational skills.
  • MS ACCESS DATABASE PROGRAMER
    Looking for an access programmer. Contract position. Send resume with references and rates to: [email protected] www.prospace.biz
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    position in Phoenix with the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy.
  • ROADS END CABIN NEAR YELLOWSTONE
    Vaulted ceilings, two fireplaces, two bedrooms, loft, jetted tub, wifi. Forest, mountain views. Wildlife. [email protected]
  • ACCOUNTING CLERK
    Our director is seeking to employ the services of an Accounting Clerk to assist with various accounting and administrative tasks. This is a great opportunity...