Do greens know diplomacy? In the eyes of some, W can do nothing but harm.
At this point, there is nothing George W. Bush or Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne can do. Any action taken with respect to the Endangered Species Act -- even the do-gooder announcements -- will receive criticism and suspicion. Take, for example, the recent announcement that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is applying a newly developed, ecosystem-based approach to species conservation, and adding 48 species found only on the island of Kauai to the federal endangered species list. See FWS press release. In addition, as NPR reported, "the action by the Interior Department would designate about 43 square miles as critical habitat for all the species rather than considering each species' habitat separately, which has been the practice for three decades."
Still, in response to this responsible approach to ESA implementation, some green voices remain unsatisifed. ecoscraps.com reported that "Bush Protects 48 Endangered Species in Hawaii While Ignoring 6 Western Species," while Plenty Magazine declared the approach "spin" by the administration, despite the previous use of such ecosystem management by the Clinton administration. Taking only a slightly more moderated tone, the Center for Biological Diversity couldn't help itself either, calling the action "long overdue," and an editorial in Hawaii's Star Bulletin considered this "Species protection better late than never."
I do not mean to be an apologist for this President or his environmental record. And I know that the listing of any new species, or additional critical habitat, for protection under the ESA is not really good news. (In this case, it means that another 48 species are facing potential extinction.) But if ever there was a time for diplomacy, this was it. It seems ridiculous and self-destructive to me when the blogosphere and environmentalists ridicule a Presidential administration for doing the right thing. Maybe next time, they can consider a different approach: saying "thank you."
Photo of Hawaii's Akikiki by Eric VanderWerf, from FWS.gov. According to Audubon, the swamp and lowland-dwelling bird is one of the least understood of all surviving birds on the Hawaiian Islands but likely faces the same threats confronting other native birds: habitat loss and alteration, introduction of alien species, mosquito-borne diseases, and impacts from natural events such as hurricanes.
P.S. National Wildlife Refuge Week is coming up, October 12-18, 2008.