Today, Members of Congress, scientists, law professors, conservation organizations, scientific associations and citizens called on President Obama to restore endangered species protections.

The Endangered Species Coalition organized a press event today at the Capitol with Representative Raul Grijalva to urge the Obama Administration to use the authority that Congress gave them to to repeal two last-minute Bush administration rule changes that weaken the Endangered Species Act by diminishing scientific consultation requirements for federal agencies and restricting protections for the polar bear.

Support for restoring the endangered species protections has come from members of Congress, scores of organizations, hundreds of biologists and tens of thousands of citizens. In addition to Representative Grijalva, the speakers included Francesca Grifo, Director of the Scientific Integrity Program for Union of Concerned Scientists; Bill Snape, Senior Legal Counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity; Bob Irvin, Senior Vice President for Conservation Programs at Defenders of Wildlife; and John Kostyack, the Executive Director of Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming at the National Wildlife Federation.

Here are some excerpts of the statement by the Endangered Species Coalition’s Executive Director, Leda Huta:

“Last August, the scientific and conservation community breathed a collective sigh of relief when a spokesperson for the Obama campaign was quoted in the media stating that, ‘As president, Senator Obama will fight to maintain the strong protections of the Endangered Species Act and undo this proposal from President Bush.’

“In his first 100 days, President Obama has taken one step toward this campaign promise, temporarily halting part of one of the Bush midnight rules. And, today, we are both thanking President Obama and also urging him to complete his campaign promise to truly protect species. We’re not alone.

“The public is so in favor of strong protections for endangered species that when recently Congress gave the authority to the administration to immediately undo Bush’s midnight rules, citizens across the country began speaking out. To date, approximately 150,000 individuals have signed petitions and letters collected by the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, EarthJustice, the Endangered Species Coalition, Conservation NW, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, WildEarth Guardians, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Defenders of Wildlife. These petitions request that the new administration redo both midnight rules. The petition signatures are still pouring in, and we anticipate that they will reach well over a quarter of a million.

In addition to individual citizens, more than 130 conservation, scientific, religious, community and grassroots organizations have sent a letter to the new administration asking them to use the authority granted them to undo both rules. There is very broad consensus within the conservation community that the disastrous wildlife policies of the Bush administration need to be immediately overturned.

“This opposition is not new. When the Bush administration released the rules, newspapers in more than 30 states editorialized against them. The Bush administration received in excess of 200,000 comments opposing the changes. The comments included substantive feedback from the scientific, legal and conservation community. We’re calling on the new administration to not just dismiss the public comments, but to instead take into consideration the public sentiment and to restore the original rules. (They were Reagan era rules, by the way.) The Bush administration removing those protections was like taking the tires off an ambulance. It is still an ambulance, but it offers a lot less protection.

“As President Obama’s spokesperson had said on the campaign trail, ‘After over 30 years of successfully protecting our nation’s most endangered wildlife like the bald eagle, we should be looking for ways to improve it, not weaken it.’ We couldn’t agree more and for that reason we’re here strongly urging: 1) that both rules be overturned, 2) that species be protected from climate change and 3) that polar bears aren’t forced to just sweat it out. And, the new administration must listen to American citizens and expert scientists.”

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