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Bush to Remove Appalachian Flying Squirrel From Endangered List

President Bush, against the advice of most experts, will officially remove the “West Virginia Flying Squirrel” from the Endangered Species list today.

Formally called the Virginia northern flying squirrel, but better known as the West Virginia northern flying squirrel, the subspecies is as old as the mastodons. It lives in clusters atop the highest Appalachian peaks of West Virginia and adjacent Highland County, Va. About 10,000 years ago, it became isolated from other northern flying squirrel species when ice sheets covering North America receded.

Why does that matter (besides the known fact that flying squirrels are incredibly cool, and as old as mastodons)? Because the squirrels are now one more thing in Appalachia which coal companies can indiscriminately destroy.

The delisting would remove the general prohibition against killing the squirrels or seriously damaging vital habitat. It would also relieve developers of various projects – from housing developments to wind farms or strip mines – from going through Endangered Species Act reviews or writing habitat conservation plans.

And in another great moment for science under the Bush Administration, the books are cooked. And they don’t even try to hide it.

But Kieran Suckling, policy director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said that the government’s numbers are bogus.

For one thing, the agency news release does not make clear that many of those 1,200 squirrels were probably “re-captures” of the same animal. Suckling analyzed the Interior data and estimated that there were really only 654 individual squirrels included.

In its Federal Register notice scheduled for publication today, the Interior Department conceded that the 1,200 figure was probably wrong, but said Suckling’s analysis was also off. The real figure is probably about 908, about 20 percent fewer squirrels than cited in the agency news release, according to the Federal Register notice.

Take THAT science!

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