Target: Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior
Goal: Ensure appropriate and effective federal guidelines for conservation measures aimed at protecting endangered species
Recently, the Obama administration released proposals that clarify the important role critical habitat plays in recovering endangered species, and they include new guidelines for designating and protecting those areas. While the proposals are a step in the right direction, they do not go far enough to ensure that species protected under the Endangered Species Act will effectively recover. The proposals continue to authorize ineffective conservation plans as an alternative to the proven benefits of designated critical habitat, which works against recovery efforts. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s mission is to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, plants, wildlife, and habitat, and the agency is overseen by the Department of the Interior. Urge Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to ensure that critical habitat guidelines offer the maximum amount of effectiveness for recovery efforts of imperiled species.
The two regulatory changes announced by the administration address longstanding legal deficiencies found by the courts in the Service’s current process for designating habitat. The first change recognizes the essential role critical habitat plays in the recovery of endangered species, and the second addresses flaws in the process of designating habitat. Habitat loss is still the leading cause of species endangerment and extinction. As written, the new changes fail to prevent cumulative harm, leaving endangered species at risk for extinction over time.
The administration also released a draft policy aimed at providing a more transparent evaluation process for deciding whether to exclude an area from a critical habitat designation if a private, state or federal conservation plan is already in place to protect the affected species. Previously the Service had no official guidelines for excluding areas and decisions were made on a case-by-case basis. Opponents of this policy argue that there is no way of knowing if the benefit of excluding an area from a critical habitat designation actually recovers species.
Let Secretary Jewell know that you applaud the administration’s efforts to clean up the guidelines for critical habitat designation and urge her to ensure that additional measures are taken on an ongoing basis to help with the recovery efforts of endangered species.
Dear Secretary Jewell,
Thank you for overseeing efforts to make regulatory changes to address deficiencies in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s process for designating critical habitat for endangered species. Critical habitat plays a crucial role in the recovery of imperiled species and is essential for long-term success.
While the changes are a step in the right direction, questions remain regarding the Service’s ability to sanction ineffective conservation plans as an alternative to critical habitat. Existing private, state, and federal conservation plans do not necessarily offer the same effectiveness as the proven benefits of critical habitat.
I urge you to continue to oversee efforts that work to improve recovery efforts for imperiled species. Human activity has caused many of the problems these species now face, and it is our responsibility to reverse the pattern.
[Your Name Here]
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