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Unsound Economics: The Bush Administration’s New Strategy for Undermining the Endangered Species Act

  • Peter Uimonen, John Kostyack
  • Jun 24, 2004

This report documents the efforts made by the Bush administration to weaken the Endangered Species Act’s critical habitat protections for endangered and threatened wildlife. Our review of the complete set of critical habitat designations prepared by the Bush administration shows that only half of the total amount of lands proposed for protection as critical habitat by federal agency biologists were given protection in final critical habitat rules.

Key Findings

  • The Bush administration has reduced by approximately 50 percent the size of critical habitat areas designated for protection relative to the amounts proposed by federal agency biologists. A growing proportion of these cuts are based on the erroneous conclusion that critical habitat protection is too costly: from less than 1 percent of the acres reduced in 2001 to 69 percent in 2003.
  • In justifying its reduction of critical habitat areas protected, the administration has aggressively suppressed valuable information regarding the benefits to local economies of habitat conservation, even going so far as deleting portions of economic analyses discussing such benefits. This approach is contrary to written Office of Management and Budget policy and generally accepted economic methodology, which calls for the benefits of habitat conservation to be taken into the account along with costs.
  • The administration has exaggerated the costs of critical habitat protection to justify reductions in the size of protected areas. Self-contradictory methods and other flaws in reasoning have consistently led to overstatement of costs.
  • At a time when the administration is cutting funding for Endangered Species Act recovery programs, it is spending substantial funds on economic analyses. Rather than informing policy, these analyses are used selectively to justify a predetermined result — reductions in habitat protection.

Unsound Economics

This report documents the efforts made by the Bush administration to weaken the Endangered Species Act’s critical habitat protections for endangered and threatened wildlife.

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