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Andrew Wetzler’s Blog

Bush Administration Decides to Suppress Public Comment on Wildlife Regulations

Andrew Wetzler

Posted August 13, 2008 in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places, U.S. Law and Policy

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They never cease to amaze.  The Bush Administration apparently decided sometime last fall that it will no longer accept any public comments on proposed Endangered Species Act regulations by e-mail or fax.  I stumbled on this change when looking at the text of Monday’s proposal by the Administration to gut large sections of Endangered Species Act’s safety net.  That proposal reads:

ADDRESSES: Submit your comments or materials concerning this proposed rule in one of the following ways:

(1) Through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions on the website for submitting comments.

(2) By U.S. mail or hand-delivery to Public Comment Processing, Attention: 1018-AT50, Division of Policy and Directives Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 222, Arlington, VA 22203. We will not accept e-mail or faxes. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section below for more information).

Now, it is absolutely standard practice for federal agencies to accept comments by electronic mail.  I just take a look at today’s Federal Resister and you’ll notice that the Environmental Protection Agency is accepting public comments via e-mail (see here or here, for example).  But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service isn't.  In fact, it seems the last time they accepted public comments via e-mail on a proposed Endangered Species Act regulation was November 28, 2007 (see here and here).  By December 11, 2007, Fish and Wildlife suddenly stopped accepting any comments via fax or e-mail (see here and here).

Now why would that be?  As I said, up until November of last year the agency regularly accepts e-mail comments.  Accepting comments via e-mail allowed significant number of people to weigh-in on important regulatory actions they might normally not have an ability to participate in.  I suspect it has something to do with the over 600,000 comments the Fish and Wildlife Service received concerning the polar bear listing. 

Regardless of the reason, one thing is clear to me.  The combination of (1) no e-mail comments; (2) a miserly 30-day comment period; and (3) no public hearings signals loud and clear that the Fish and Wildlife Service is not interested in listening to the public—especially about controversial moves like their proposal to fundamentally change the way wildlife is protected under the Endangered Species Act—they are interested in ramming through predetermined results.

UPDATE:  The NRDC Action Fund will be collecting comments on the proposed rule to give to the agency.  If you wish to comment, go here.

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Comments

corbina mancusoAug 13 2008 09:24 PM

Hello - so what should one do at this point to deter these new regulations from going through

Thanks, Corbina

Andrew WetzlerAug 14 2008 09:54 AM

The NRDC Action Fund will post a link where you can electronically submit comments to once the proposed regulations are actually published (probably tomorrow). We'll post an announcement here on Switchboard when that happens.

We'll collect the comments we recieve and submit them to the Department of Interior on your behalf.

Alternatively, you can write the Department yourself at the address above or, starting when the proposals are published, submit a comment using the Department web portal at http://www.regulations.gov.

If you do comment directly, make sure to request that the Secretary of the Interior extend the comment period beyond 30-days and hold public hearings.

Thanks,

Andrew

Cristi HarrisAug 14 2008 03:44 PM

Just a note...many of our federal agencies are in the process of moving to regulations.gov. They haven't stopped taking comments; they are just setting up a new system.

Your tax dollars at work ;).

Jonathan TalbotAug 14 2008 06:14 PM

Anyone who is unclear why defending the right of the public to participate in government decisions about the environment is important, or the specifics of what a good process looks like in different countries, is invited to check out a new publication from the World Resourcs Institute called "Voice and Choice: Opening the Door to Environmental Democracy." It's available for free download online here:

http://www.accessinitiative.org/resource/voice-and-choice-opening-door-environmental-democracy.

DanoAug 14 2008 08:10 PM

Lord! Save us from outrage fatigue!

Best,

D

Bill LAug 15 2008 12:21 PM

Ya'All got that right saves us from outrage fatigue!!! I hope the so called religious right are happy now sitting back watching our freedom stripped. On the bright side this administration is in the process of shorting the Star Spangled Banner, (removing the land of the free), Looks like they are doing a good job just some thought's>>> BILL

Green BeanAug 15 2008 04:58 PM

We need to continue to spread the word, to get people to blog about it, tell their friends, etc AND then comment, write letters and stall stall stall.

Comments are closed for this post.

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