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Full text of President Obama's memo on endangered species

March 3, 2009 |  4:54 pm

A scene in a national park, Olympic in Washington state

Why wait for the Federal Register?

President Obama visited the Interior Department today to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its first Interior secretary. He got a warm reception from employees. He reminisced about his first visits to national parks as an 11-year-old, which, btw, was the same time Obama's vice president, Joe Biden, was first entering the Senate as a very young man.

"That [park trip] was an experience I will never forget," the new president said. "It's an experience I want for my daughters and all our daughters and sons."

Obama also announced key changes in implementing the endangered species law. He said his memo would "help restore the scientific process to its rightful place at the heart of the Endangered Species Act." (The full memo text is below; paragraphs added.) More undoing of last-minute changes by the previous administration.

The White House, March 3, 2009


SUBJECT: The Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq., reflects one of the Nation's profound commitments. Pursuant to that Act, the Federal Government has long required a process of broad interagency consultation to ensure the application of scientific and technical expertise to decisions that may affect threatened or endangered species.

Under that interagency process, executive departments and agencies (agencies) contemplating an action that may affect endangered or threatened species have long been required, except in certain limited circumstances, to consult with, and in some circumstances obtain the prior written concurrence of, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and/or the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) -- the expert agencies that have the primary responsibility to ensure that the ESA is implemented in accordance with the law.

On December 16, 2008, the Departments of the Interior and Commerce issued a joint regulation that modified these longstanding requirements. See 73 Fed. Reg. 76272. This new regulation expands the circumstances in which an agency may determine not to consult with, or obtain the written concurrence of, the FWS or NMFS prior to undertaking an action that may affect threatened or endangered species. But under the new regulation, agencies may continue the previous practice of consulting with, and obtaining the written concurrence of, the FWS and NMFS as a matter of discretion.

I hereby request the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce to review the regulation issued on December 16, 2008, and to determine whether to undertake new rulemaking procedures with respect to consultative and concurrence processes that will promote the purposes of the ESA. Until such review is completed, I request the heads of all agencies to exercise their discretion, under the new regulation, to follow the prior longstanding consultation and concurrence practices involving the FWS and NMFS.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person. Agencies shall carry out the provisions of this memorandum to the extent permitted by law and consistent with statutory authorities. The Secretary of the Interior is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.


(signed) -- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: National Park Service