For Immediate Release, December 15, 2008
Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
Statement by Center for Biological Diversity on New Inspector General Report
Documenting Political Interference in Endangered Species Management
PORTLAND, Ore.— The Inspector General of the Department of Interior released a report today documenting across-the-board interference in management of endangered species by former Deputy Secretary of Interior Julie MacDonald and other officials. The report specifically found that of 20 decisions concerning endangered species that were investigated, MacDonald influenced 13. These are in addition to eight decisions the Department of Interior previously admitted had to be reconsidered because of MacDonald’s interference.
“The Bush administration has been a disaster for the nation’s endangered species,” said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Political interference by MacDonald and other Bush administration officials threatens the survival of numerous species like bull trout, marbled murrelet and the southwestern bald eagle.”
The report, titled “The Endangered Species Act and the Conflict Between Science and Policy,” is based on a review of more than 20,000 documents and numerous interviews with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff members. The report found that MacDonald “frequently contested the scientific findings of FWS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) biologists and often replaced their scientific conclusions with her own, even though she was not a biologist.” The report also found that MacDonald “acted as an economist in her efforts to restrict critical habitat designations,” even though she lacked such training. The report noted that in one case, the Fish and Wildlife Service had to spend $100,000 to correct a critical habitat designation because she had made a math error.
“MacDonald’s reign of terror at the Department of Interior will have a lasting negative impact on endangered species, but she was not alone in this effort,” Greenwald said. "MacDonald was the administration’s attack dog, not its general. The contempt for science and law that she came to symbolize goes much deeper than a single Department of Interior employee.”
The report confirmed that MacDonald was aided in her work to undermine protection of endangered species by former Assistant Secretary Craig Manson, Special Assistant Randall Bowman and attorney Thomas Graf in the Office of the Solicitor for Interior. More broadly, the Bush administration has a terrible record implementing the Endangered Species Act. Under Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne, for example, only one species — the polar bear — has been protected as a threatened or endangered species. Overall, the administration has only listed 62 species, compared to 522 under the Clinton administration and 231 under the George H.W. Bush administration.
“The nation’s endangered species have not gotten a fair shake under the Bush administration,” Greenwald said. “We look forward to working with an Obama administration to restore sound and effective management of endangered species that is based on credible science.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit conservation organization
with 200,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.