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Last Minute Rules

Publication Date: 
January 02, 2009
David Gorn

Professor and Director of Stanford's Environmental Law Clinic Deborah Sivas was interviewed for a story on KQED Radio's Quest program regarding a change by the Bush Administration to the Endangered Species Act:

The Bush Administration has passed dozens of so-called midnight regulations, last minute rules and amendments. Many of those new laws affect the environment. They include a change to the Engangered Species act which has many California environmentalists deeply worried. David Gorn Reports.

Gorn: This place, as my kids would put it, is a little sketch. Yosemite Slough is a barren, muddy area in the industrial flats, out past the abandoned piers on the south end of San Francisco. It’s just under the flight path for San Francisco International Airport.

Natoff: It’s in an area that’s badly in need of recreational resources and sure does need some restoration.

Gorn: That’s Andy Natoff of the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council. She says the good news about this place being neglected and ignored for so long is that it gives some shore birds a place to live. And those birds, which include a couple of endangered species - the snowy plover and the California clapper rail are newly threatened, she says, by a recent re-writing of the endangered species act.

Gorn: At Stanford Law School, Deborah Sivas is director of the Stanford environmental law clinic. She says endangered species are a sort of clapper rail in a coal mine; an indicator of the health of the whole environment.

Sivas: Even if it’s a relatively small development, there are always conditions these days because there is so little habitat left. If those agencies don’t even have to go through the process of having to negotiate with Fish and Wildlife over some protections, I think we’re going to see a lot of projects without any protections at all.

Gorn: The new rule, Sivas says, effectively takes the teeth out of the endangered species act with potentially dire consequences.

Sivas: We’re going to see in one ecosystem after another— in the desert, in the Sierra, in the Central Valley, along the coast—in all of those places there are any number of imperiled species and without those protections we could see really the unraveling of those ecosystems one-by-one.