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“The Bush rules would have allowed agencies with little or no wildlife expertise to make decisions that could mean life or death for animals like the polar bear,” he said.

Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, West Virginia Democrat and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, also lauded the announcement.

“It is one more indication that the new administration truly represents change for the better and is committed to the protection of our natural resources and our environment,” Mr. Rahall said. “I think we know who would have been the winner in this fox-guarding-the-hen-house scenario advanced by the Bush administration, and it would not be the hens.”

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that his department always has been able to “transform the crisis of today to the opportunity of tomorrow” and that it would help the president’s economic recovery plan work.

He called Mr. Obama’s leadership a “new era of change,” and the president said the stimulus funds directed to the department will help the nation’s parks, tribes and waterways.

With a subtle reference to the corruption scandals that harmed the department several years ago, Mr. Obama said, “We’ve seen lapses that have damaged the reputation of this department,” but added that in his first few weeks as president there have been more responsibility and accountability.