04/03/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Obama Restores Endangered Species Protections Weakened During Bush's Last Month in Office

In a presidential directive issued last Tuesday, and in well-received remarks delivered on the 160th anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Department of the Interior, President Obama restored endangered species protections that had been weakened by the prior administration.

A month before leaving office, the Bush Administration enacted new Endangered Species Act guidelines excusing federal agencies, in many cases, from having to consult wildlife professionals before taking potentially harmful actions. Administrative rule-making laws making it hard to undo regulations like this once they've gone into effect -- but nothing in the Bush "kill before consulting" rule says federal agencies can't consult each other, just that they don't have to consult each other.

Today, President Obama took both immediate and longer-term steps to return to the previous, more consultative rule. First, he instructed federal agencies to continue consulting each other about wildlife impacts as if the Bush rule had never gone into effect. Second, he directed an inquiry into whether the Bush rule should be formally undone (so that a future anti-environmental president would have to start all over again to cut wildlife professionals out of the loop). 

The entire Obama memorandum, issued in a press release Tuesday, as well as the key excerpts from that memo, can be read here.

Obama emphasized his support for the Endangered Species Act, and his administration's return to science-based policymaking, in remarks at the 160th anniversary celebration at the Department of the Interior. The quick-and-dirty, insider's "press pool" report of those remarks, and their hearty reception by grateful Department of the Interior employees, can be read here, and his complete remarks, as distributed by the White House, can be read here.

So: good science now, and for the next 4-8 years; and hopefully restored guarantees of good
science later, even under less humane executives than Obama. A good day for the earth, and another reminder of why elections matter.

Link to full post with complete Presidential memo.