For Immediate Release, May 1, 2007
||Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
Bill Snape, (202) 536-9351
Embattled Interior Official Resigns In Wake of Inspector General Report
Congress to Hold Hearings on Julie MacDonald’s Antics Next Week
WASHINGTON, D.C.— According to the Endangered Species and Wetlands Report, a high-level Bush administration appointee has resigned in the aftermath of a devastating Inspector General investigation, just days before a House congressional oversight committee will hold a public hearing on her violations of the Endangered Species Act, censorship of science, and brutalizing of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff.
Julie MacDonald tendered her resignation on April 30, 2007. She was the Department of Interior’s Assistant Secretary of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, a position that oversees the entire U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endangered species program. As revealed in numerous media exposés and a recent Department of Interior Inspector General investigation, MacDonald used her position to aggressively squelch protection of endangered species. She rewrote scientific reports, browbeat U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees, and colluded with industry lawyers to generate lawsuits against the Fish and Wildlife Service.
MacDonald’s specialty was blocking agency efforts to place imperiled species on the endangered species list, stripping tens of millions of acres from agency proposals to designated “critical habitat” areas and working with industry groups to remove species from the endangered list and thus from federal protection.
“Julie MacDonald’s reign of terror over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is finally over,” said Kieran Suckling, policy director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Endangered species and scientists everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief. But 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.”
MacDonald’s recently hired counterpart, Todd Willens, is equally dedicated to undermining endangered species conservation. Willens spearheaded Richard Pombo’s (R-CA) anti-endangered species agenda as lead staffer of the House Resources Committee, then was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks on October 19, 2006. He has since been directly involved in developing sweeping anti-endangered species regulations and efforts to remove the Florida manatee and West Virginia northern flying squirrel from the endangered species list.
MacDonald’s firing comes days before a May 9th congressional oversight hearing into the Bush administration’s rampant violations of the Endangered Species Act and censorship of endangered species science. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) recently threatened to hold up confirmation of another Interior official until the Department addressed MacDonald’s ethical violations.
The Bush administration has listed fewer species under the Endangered Species Act than any other administration since the law was enacted in 1973, to date only listing 57 species compared to 512 under the Clinton administration and 234 under the first Bush administration. The Bush government has listed so few species in part because it has been denying species protection at record rates — in many cases with the direct involvement of MacDonald.
Of all the endangered species listing decisions made under the Bush administration, 52 percent denied protection as compared to only 13 percent during the last six years of the Clinton Administration. Meanwhile, 279 species languish on the candidate list without protection.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wilderness.