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For Immediate Release, July 20, 2007

Contact: Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Reconsider Small Portion of Decisions
Tainted by Julie MacDonald:
Agency Seeks to Deflect Growing Criticism of Political Interference in
Scientific Decisions Involving Endangered Species

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it will reconsider eight decisions involving endangered species that were overseen by disgraced former Assistant Secretary of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald. Conservationists said they were glad these species would receive consideration for additional protection, but warned that the list of decisions to be reconsidered is outrageously incomplete and appears to be a token effort designed for damage control and coverup, rather than an attempt to address the problem. 

“Fish and Wildlife’s reconsideration of eight decisions tainted by former assistant secretary Julie MacDonald is a day late and a dollar short,” said Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Despite no scientific training, MacDonald interfered in dozens of scientific decisions concerning endangered species. But only a full and transparent accounting of all the decisions tainted by MacDonald’s malignant influence can undo the damage she has done.”

In particular, the list fails to include decisions not to list the Mexican garter snake, potentially delist the marbled murrelet, and sharply reduce critical habitat for the bull trout, even though regional directors of the Fish and Wildlife Service specifically requested that these decisions be reconsidered because of MacDonald’s influence. The list also fails to include reconsideration of critical habitat for the Sacramento splittail, even though a story in the Contra Costa Times revealed that MacDonald may have illegally limited designation of habitat to avoid placing environmental restrictions on an 80-acre farm she owns in Dixon, California. MacDonald is known to have been involved in reversing numerous other decisions by agency scientists in order to reduced protections for species, including decisions about the Gunnison sage grouse, Montana fluvial arctic grayling, Southwestern bald eagle and many others. These decisions should also be reconsidered.

Julie MacDonald resigned on April 30, 2007, following an investigation by the Department of Interior’s Inspector General that found she had used her position to aggressively squelch protection of endangered species, rewrite scientific reports, browbeat agency scientists, and collude with industry lawyers to generate lawsuits against the Fish and Wildlife Service. Since her resignation there has been a growing chorus from Congress, editorial boards and the public for the agency to reconsider decisions tainted by MacDonald’s political influence. Today’s announcement falls far short of what is needed to redress MacDonald’s role in weakening protection of the nation’s endangered species.

Decisions to be reconsidered:

  • White-tailed prairie dog, 90-day petition finding (November 9, 2004)
  • Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, 12 month petition finding/proposed delisting  (January 28, 2005)
  • 12 species of Hawaiian picture-wing flies, proposed critical habitat (August 15, 2006)
  • Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, final critical habitat (June 23, 2003)
  • Arroyo toad, final critical habitat (April 13, 2005)
  • Southwestern willow flycatcher, final critical habitat (October 19, 2005)
  • California red-legged frog, final critical habitat (April 13, 2006)
  • Canada lynx, final critical habitat (November 9, 2006)

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