Act now on ESA changes

Do you want to fish for salmon, steelhead or carp?

In the midst of the collapse of California;s salmon and steelhead fisheries, the Bush administration is proposing massive radical changes in rules implementing the federal Endangered Species Act.

If implemented, the rule changes will grievously damage our fisheries by comprising the last line of defense protecting listed species from their present tumble toward extinction. It will make our efforts to protect and restore fisheries vastly more difficult.

For the sake of our fisheries and future generations, we must stop this despicable attempt to dismember our nation's most successful law protecting fisheries and wildlife.

Under the current regulations, federal agencies must consult with scientists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine whether a project is likely to harm endangered species or habitat.

However, the new regulations would:

"Exempt thousands of federal activities from review under the Endangered Species Act.

"Eliminate checks and balances of independent oversight.

"Limit which effects can be considered harmful.

"Prevent consideration of a project's contribution to global warming.

"Set an inadequate 60-day deadline for wildlife experts to evaluate a project in the instances when they are invited to participate - or else the project gets an automatic green light.

"Enable large-scale projects to go unreviewed by dividing them into hundreds of small projects.

"Limit protection of a species only to where it is currently found.

Because these regulations are administrative and not legislative, they won't need the approval of Congress. In an effort to push these new rules through before the Bush administration leaves office, the normal 90-day comment period has been cut to 30 days. The comment period began Aug. 15 and ends Sept.15.

And in a blatant effort to re-duce the number of anglers and conservationists opposing the new rules, the FWS has announced that they will not accept e-mailed or faxed comments.

Comments will only be accepted through: the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.reg ulations.gov. Follow the instructions on the Web site for submitting comments; or, by mailing to Public Comment Processing, Attention: 1018-AT50, Division of Policy and Directives Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222, Arlington, VA 22203.

Or, visit http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/awetzler/update_comment_period_on_the_b.html and use sign the letter or paste your own. The NRDC Action Fund will collect, print and submit comments directly to the government at the close of the comment period.

I cannot overstress how important it is for everybody to take action and oppose these insidious rule changes.

- Bill Jennings

Executive Director California Sportfishing Protection Alliance Stockton, Calif.