The southern Amargosa River

Listen actively

United States public participation laws give us unique privileges and duties: Rule changes require the federal government to provide the opportunity for public comment, but that only matters if we participate. Therefore, when a particularly egregious scientific or environmental rule change pops up for public comment, I’ll post links here when I have a chance. (Field blog posts, however, are a separate deal: Go there if you’re wondering what’s blooming or what insects, reptiles, and amphibians are out and about.)

Please browse the following documents and comment if you feel inspired. Or maybe even if you don’t.

Comments due September 4, 2020.Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Regulations for Listing Endangered and Threatened Species and Designating Critical Habitat.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service are proposing a new definition of habitat as well as an “alternative” definition of habitat for use in designating “critical habitat” for species. Here’s the problem: Both proposed definitions conflate the general idea of habitat (what an animal can use to survive and reproduce) with the idea of critical habitat (what a threatened or endangered animal must have in order to continue to exist). The “alternative” definition proposes that habitat is “only where the necessary attributes to support the species presently exist.” (Emphasis added.) In other words, even though a fish may be going extinct because it’s losing breeding pools faster than desert springs can mined for groundwater, pools that were habitat and could be habitat if they were restored are no longer considered “habitat.” The goal of the Endangered Species Act (i.e., designating Endangered Species and identifying “critical habitat”) is to “protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend,” but the new definition of habitat would make that recovery impossible by definition. Both definitions are also mired in the present—no climate change, restoration projects, diseases, invasive predators, toxic settling ponds, or changing coastlines here, and no consideration or refuges for the long-term future. Neither definition considers the problems of habitat fragmentation and connectivity. The Hill has posted an article about the proposed definitions here and the Center for Biological Diversity has a page about the proposal here. Read the definitions here and comment here.

Comments due April 17, 2020. “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science,” a proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency, is a euphemism for excluding scientific studies from consideration in crafting new environmental regulations. Read about the dangers of the proposed rule here (on the venerable Science magazine’s website) and comment here (at Regulations.gov).