On Wednesday, several key Senators sent a letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne expressing concern about an Interior Department proposal they say will weaken the Endangered Species Act.

The letter states that draft revisions to the act have suggested a major overhaul of the act is under consideration and demands that the Bush administration include Congress in any attempt to rewrite the 30-year-old law. It also includes 15 questions that the Senators want answered before the Interior Department approves any changes.

The 90-page draft proposal would limit the number of species protected and acres of habitat preserved. It also includes a timeline for protection, and gives states more power over the species that are protected.

Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D- Md.), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) signed on to the missive.

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“We believe that the changes put into place by the rule revisions would reduce dramatically the current scope and positive impact of the Endangered Species Acts,” said the letter. “[I]f the draft revisions had been in place 30 years ago, it is hard to imagine that we ever could have achieved the success — with bald eagles, grizzly bears, sea turtles, sea otters, and many other species — of which we now are deservedly proud.”

Some environmental advocates have expressed concern that the proposed changes could weaken the act so much so that 80 percent of the 1,300 species currently on the list could lose protection.

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