Vicky Meretsky: We are now losing species at somewhere between a hundred and maybe tens of thousand of times faster than on average.
That’s conservation biologist Vicky Meretsky, of Indiana University. She says endangered species stand to benefit from a rule made by the Obama administration, which requires federal agencies to consult scientists before starting a project that could harm protected wildlife. This will affect departments like the Army Corps of Engineers.
Vicky Meretsky: If you need to build a bridge across the river and we know that we have endangered species in the river, you have to say approximately how many individuals you think you may harm.
Proposals for dams and highways would also have to be reviewed by federal scientists – experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA. Meretsky said construction would likely be approved, if shown not to jeopardize the existence of any endangered species. She added that ongoing projects would still have to account for harm to endangered animals.
Vicky Meretsky: If you go over your estimate, you’re supposed to notify the Fish and Wildlife Service, and give them the opportunity to say, ‘okay, we need to start thinking about what other sorts of things we need to do.’
Meretsky emphasized that this policy is not new – just a reinstatement of one that had been in place since the Endangered Species Act passed in 1973, but briefly suspended by the previous administration. Critics of the policy say it holds back economic development.
Our thanks to Vicky Meretsky.
Vicky Meretsky is a conservation biologist at Indiana University. She has conducted research on California condors, Egyptian vultures, and endangered species of Grand Canyon, Arizona, including humpback chub and Kanab ambersnail.
Beth Lebwohl researches, writes and helps produce science content in audio and video formats for EarthSky. She is one of the authors on EarthSky.org, a script-writer for our podcasts, and helps host our English science podcasts in 90-second, 8-minute and 22-minute formats. Beth came to EarthSky in 2006 from the American Museum of Natural History's Department of Astrophysics, where she was surrounded by some of the greatest telescope-building, equation-wielding, code-writing physicists of our time. And they made her think . . . this science thing . . . it's pretty cool.