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For Immediate Release, May 25, 2007

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne’s First Year in Office a Disaster for Endangered Species  

WASHINGTON— Today marks one year since Dirk Kempthorne was confirmed as Secretary of Interior. During that time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endangered species program has gone from bad to worse.

* Prior to Kempthorne’s confirmation, the Bush government had the lowest rate of placing species on the endangered species list of any presidency in history. Under Kempthorne, the program has ground to a complete halt: not a single species has been added to the endangered species list under his watch. The last year-long listing drought occurred in 1981 under Reagan’s interior secretary, James Watt. Compared to Kempthorne’s annual listing rate of zero, Bruce Babbitt annually listed 65 species and Manuel Lujan 58.

“Kempthorne has been a disaster for endangered species,” said Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist for the Center for Biological Diversity. “His failure to add even one species to the endangered list is a historic low in the history of the Endangered Species Act. This was an Annus Horribilis for American wildlife.”

The lack of listing does not reflect a lack of imperilment. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists have classified 279 species as “candidates” meaning they have met all criteria to be formally proposed as endangered species. Agency biologists recommended emergency listing for three of them, but Kempthorne’s Interior Department has kept them off the endangered list.

* After being petitioned and sued by conservationists, Kempthorne proposed to list the polar bear as a threatened species in December 2006. The proposal bizarrely noted that the polar bear was going extinct due to the melting of its Arctic sea-ice habitat, but failed to mention global warming. At a press conference and in television appearances, Kempthorne flatly stated that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service polar bear biologists had not analyzed global warming, its causes, or its solution. In fact, the scientists had done exactly that only to have all traces of their analysis expunged by Kempthorne’s Interior Department. Most damning in their analysis was the conclusion that the Bush administration’s intensity-based greenhouse gas policy was inadequate to save the polar bear or reduce carbon emissions at all.

“Kempthorne censored the scientists to protect the White House, then lied about it to the media,” said Greenwald.

* While Kempthorne can not be blamed for hiring the disgraced and recently retired Deputy Assistant Secretary, Julie MacDonald, he conspicuously allowed her to continue bullying and overruling Fish and Wildlife Service scientists for nearly a year after his confirmation. Even after she was excoriated in an inspector general’s report, Kempthorne failed to denounce her actions. He continues to implement her damaging policies, including those designed to keep imperiled species off the endangered species list.

When pushed at a congressional oversight committee to review MacDonald’s most controversial decisions, Lynn Scarlett, Kempthorne’s Deputy Secretary of Interior, refused.

“Kempthorne’s refusal to review, overturn, or even acknowledge the many illegal actions taken by Julie MacDonald indicates his lack of interest in helping endangered species or preserving the integrity of the Endangered Species Act,” said Greenwald.

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