Home > Uncategorized > Murphy DEP Proposal To Delist Bald Eagle Raises Important Questions

Murphy DEP Proposal To Delist Bald Eagle Raises Important Questions

Delisting Eliminates Regulatory Protections Of Habitat That Could Set Back Progress

Decision Based On A Narrow Scientific Consensus Process With Conflicts Of Interest 

No Role For The Public Or For Policy and Value Judgments

Kootenai River, northern Montana about 40 miles from Canadian border

Kootenai River, northern Montana about 40 miles from Canadian border

As we warned back in February, the Murphy DEP just proposed new rules that would delist the Bald Eagle from threatened and endangered species program status, and thereby eliminate regulatory protections of habitat, see:

I guess the conservation community failed to weigh in and nip that in the bud as I recommended.

In a bizarre and Orwellian move, the Murphy DEP issued a press release yesterday touting their efforts and this “milestone” (as if this was no big deal or policy decision, just a routine progression). I guess they think that going on offense is the best defense, see:

I am not a conservation biologist, but I have strong views and strongly oppose this misguided decision.

So, before I write to criticize the DEP decision, because I lack the expertise, I just posed these questions to a real PhD conservation biologist I trust: (note to readers: please email me with your thoughts):

XXXXX – I’m writing about this [bald eagle delisting]. I’d like your thoughts on the following questions I have:

1) The Clean Water Act has a concept known as “anti-backsliding”. Basically, that means that when water quality improves (and would allow more pollution), polluters can not relax current permits and get less stringent permits, even though less stringent permits otherwise would meet water quality standards.

As applied to endangered species, that would mean something like that when populations are restored, you can’t relax protections that might jeopardize the progress. In this case, elimination of habitat protections for bald eagle could wipe out the progress made.

Suppose EPA said that it was OK to start using DDT again because the bald eagle recovered?

Does conservation biology have a similar concept as anti-backsliding?

Same question on the “precautionary principle” (which I assume you understand).

2) What is the role of science in listing decisions? Is it acceptable for decision-makers to be more conservative (protective) than warranted by science based on public preferences or policy judgements?

3) I note the bald eagle delisting recommendation was made pursuant to the Delphi consensus process. Do you support the concept of consensus as a basis for decision-making?

4) I note that the delisting recommendation was made by a DEP selected small group of NJ based scientists. Do you feel that this is an adequate scientific review process?

5) I note that there was no role for the public (or other scientists, experts, or interested parties) in the delisting recommendation (science) and DEP regulatory proposal to implement that delisting. Are you OK with that?

6) I understand that the final decision was made by Commissioner LaTourette. Do you think he is qualified and properly motivated to make that decision?

I’d prefer quick written replies, because whenever I get on the phone, my mind wanders all over the place.


[End Note: The NJ Builders Association website lists this DEP proposal as a “helpful link”. That’s really all you need to know:

Helpful Links

Find Your State Legislator

NJ Board of Public Utilities

NJ Department of Community Affairs

NJ Department of Environmental Protection

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