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Originally published Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 4:22 PM

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Obama calls a foul on Bush endangered-species rule

President Obama overturned an 11th-hour attempt by the departing Bush administration to allow government agencies to skip asking their scientists for advice and opinions on endangered species.

Seattle Times editorial

THE Bush administration elbowed the Endangered Species Act on the way out the door, with one of those little regulatory jabs no one was supposed to notice. President Obama did and applied a policy balm.

In mid-December, the Interior Department finalized rules to allow government agencies to decide if one of their projects is a threat to endangered species. The clarification allowed agencies to come to their own self-serving conclusions without getting a second opinion from the Fish and Wildlife Service, or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Environmental groups filed a court challenge of the Bush administration's dismissal of consultations, but Obama got there first.

He used a meeting with Department of Interior employees to announce he had undone the regulation. His intent was to return "the scientific process to its rightful place at the heart of the Endangered Species Act, a process undermined by past administrations."

Shortcuts on environmental topics are a false economy, for time and dollars. Court challenges, popular disapproval and harm to the environment and its endangered creatures all carry cost.

Having the government seek advice from its own scientific experts is a basic step toward avoiding trouble later, or at least being prepared for the predictable uproar to follow. Obama corrected shortsighted regulatory and environmental mischief.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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