They did not say "Eastern" cotton tails. They said "New England" cottontails. What you're missing here is that there is a difference between the native New England cottontail and the very common (and not native to the historic range of the NE cottontail) eastern cottontail.
edit: and I'll stay out of the political debates and whether or not Aldo is spinning. This thread has great potential to become quite a flamer. I am merely pointing out the difference, which all the national news networks that I watched failed to do, that they were not (whether THEY knew it or not) talking about the eastern cottontail, which lurks near every garden in the east. I'm not even interested in debating whether or not we should allow a species to go extinct for the sake of any given special interest group.
But I will say flatly that the friends and acquaintances that I've made over the years that work for the USF&WS are not incompetent. http://www.necottontail.com/resources/necotton.fs.pdft