For Immediate Release, May 22, 2007
Contact: Kieran Suckling (520) 275-5960
MacDonald Scandal Grows:
Memos Indicate MacDonald Instituted Secret Policy Banning Fish and Wildlife Service From Using Scientific Studies, May Have Wrongfully Deleted Emails From Industry Lobbyists
WASHINGTON— Yesterday Congressmen George Miller (D-CA) and Nick Rahall (D-WA) announced an inquiry into conflict-of-interest charges leveled at Julie MacDonald, former Interior Department deputy assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The political appointee resigned April 30 following a scathing Inspector General report charging her with leaking sensitive documents to industry lobbyists, browbeating U.S. Fish and Wildlife scientists, and illegally overturning scientific recommendations in order to squelch protections for endangered species.
Today the Center for Biological Diversity released memos obtained through the Freedom of Information Act further implicating MacDonald in improper and potentially criminal actions. On January 27, 2005, prominent industry lobbyist and anti-endangered species litigator Steven Quarles emailed MacDonald, requesting a meeting, in his own words, to “secure easy ‘yeses‘ to outrageous requests.” Later in the day Quarles emailed MacDonald's secretary, asking her to pass a message on to MacDonald to “just go in and erase all those back emails but I must admit I suspect some of them are mine…and, of course, THEY are critically important.” If MacDonald deleted the emails as instructed, she may have violated federal laws prohibiting the deletion of government emails. Karl Rove is currently being investigated for similar charges.
“There appears to no end to the arrogance and corruption of Bush’s political appointees,” said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity.
In a second memo dated May 5, 2005, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists reveal that the Assistant Secretary of Interior's Office (from which MacDonald oversaw the Fish and Wildlife Service) issued a secret policy forcing the Fish and Wildlife Service to ignore scientific information supporting petitions to add species to the endangered species list. The policy required the Fish and Wildlife Service to only divulge information that could be used to refute listing petitions, while ignoring supporting information.
The policy, which was never made public, blatantly violates the Endangered Species Act requirement to use all the best available scientific information to make listing decisions. It was used by the Fish and Wildlife Service to deny a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity to retain the desert nesting bald eagle on the endangered species list when the rest of the species is removed on June 29, 2007. The agency’s denial states that it has no information supporting the Center for Biological Diversity's petition, when in fact its own scientists, its own seven-member scientific peer review panel, and the former head of the Arizona bald eagle recovery program all recommended the agency keep the desert eagle on the endangered species list. The only opponents to retaining protection were top-level agency bureaucrats.
“Julie MacDonald is gone from office, but her legacy of lawlessness lives on within the Department of Interior,” said Suckling. “Her abusive policies and illegal decisions are still in place. The Department of Interior will not regain credibility until her policies and decisions are withdrawn.”