Judge Orders Feds to Reconsider Protections for Puget Sound Orcas

The Bush administration’s environmental policies are taking a beating from the judicial branch this week. Not only did a federal court yesterday reject a plan to allow snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Glacier national parks; today, a different federal judge struck down the administration’s decision not to extend Endangered Species Act protections to Puget Sound orcas. U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik criticized the National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to use the “best available science” when it determined that the Puget Sound orcas are not a significant subset of the species at large and could be replaced by others if they became extinct. He ordered NMFS to reconsider the issue and reach a new decision by next year. The current Puget Sound orca population numbers just 84, down from 97 in 1996 and an estimated high of 200 in the more distant past.