Litigating POLITICAL CORRUPTION
In 2007, the Center kicked off the biggest endangered species litigation action ever undertaken, a campaign to save scores of animals and plants that were wrongly denied federal protection because of political interference by Bush administration appointees in the Department of the Interior. What’s at stake? Nothing less than the survival and recovery of 59 imperiled species and more than 8 million acres of habitat that must be protected.
By suppressing, twisting, and ignoring information from its own biologists, the Bush administration removed Endangered Species Act protections for two animals, refused to grant protections to five animals, and withheld essential federal protection of critical habitat for a long list of animals and plants living everywhere from Oregon to Texas to Minnesota. Many of the illegal decisions we’re opposing were engineered by former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Julie MacDonald, who resigned in disgrace following a scathing misconduct investigation by Interior’s inspector general. Other decisions were ordered by MacDonald’s boss, Assistant Secretary of the Interior Craig Manson, his special assistant Randal Bowman, and Ruth Solomon in the White House Office of Management and Budget. Some decisions were ordered by lower-level bureaucrats. In many cases, government and university scientists carefully documented the unauthorized editing of scientific documents, the overruling of scientific experts, and the falsification of economic analyses.
On August 28, 2007, the Center filed a notice of intent to sue Interior for political interference resulting in decisions limiting or denying protection to 55 endangered species. Since then, our list of species wronged has grown to include 58. To date we’ve filed suit to protect 45 species — most recently the San Bernardino kangaroo rat, Arkansas River shiner, Riverside fairy shrimp, 12 Texas invertebrates and three California plants — and we’re in the process of preparing suits for more.
We’ve already met with significant success in gaining greater protection for species harmed by political interference during Julie MacDonald’s tenure. In response to Center lawsuits, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to redo critical habitat designations for 16 species: the California red-legged frog; arroyo toad; vermilion darter; Mississippi gopher frog; four New Mexico invertebrates; the Santa Ana sucker; and seven plants from California, Oregon, and North Carolina. The newly proposed critical habitat designation for the California red-legged frog totals approximately 1.8 million acres — quadruple the area previously protected. In addition, thanks to a Center petition and two Center lawsuits, the Service will also reconsider listing the rare, highly imperiled Mexican garter snake as an endangered species.
The Center will continue to push for better protection of all the animals and plants wronged through illegal Endangered Species Act decisions influenced by MacDonald and other Bush-era bureaucrats. We won’t end our campaign until we’ve ensured that none of these species’ recovery — or the political interference that led to weakened protections — are swept under the carpet.
Check out a timeline of our campaign.
Contact: Noah Greenwald