Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 28, 2019

Contact:  Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121,

Following Pesticide Cover-up, Senate Urged to Block Bernhardt for Top Interior Post

WASHINGTON— More than 30 conservation groups today urged the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to reject David Bernhardt’s nomination to be Interior secretary because of his newly revealed role in covering up pesticide threats to imperiled wildlife.

Today’s letter responds to this week’s New York Times investigation, which revealed that Bernhardt has known since 2017 that the insecticide chlorpyrifos is putting 1,399 protected animals and plants on the path to extinction. Bernhardt personally intervened to suppress career scientists’ work to protect the at-risk species from the pesticide.

“Documents demonstrate that when Mr. Bernhardt was briefed on these findings, he swiftly intervened to make sure they were never released to the public,” the letter states. “Despite the sweeping harm caused by chlorpyrifos — a pesticide known to impair neurological development in children — all further progress on completing this critical conservation work has effectively come to a halt.”

The Trump administration’s pesticide cover-up was revealed in a document obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity through the Freedom of Information Act. The summary document shows that expert wildlife scientists found that the existence of 1,399 protected plants and animals is being jeopardized by chlorpyrifos. The opinion also found that another organophosphate pesticide, malathion, is jeopardizing 1,284 species, and diazinon is jeopardizing 175 species.

“Bernhardt is willing to let vast numbers of imperiled animals and plants go extinct just to help his pesticide industry pals make a profit,” said Brett Hartl, the Center’s government affairs director. “His utter disregard for science and the well-being of endangered species makes him totally unfit to lead a department responsible for protecting our wildlife.”

Groups on today’s letter note that “in light of these revelations, we are extremely concerned that Mr. Bernhardt will continue to interfere with science and scientists at the Department of the Interior. The Endangered Species Act has been such an effective conservation law because it requires that many decisions be based solely on the best available science. If Mr. Bernhardt is willing to deliberately interfere in science-based processes, the damage to this nation’s natural heritage will be quite extensive and could easily result in the extinction of imperiled species.”

Some 99 percent of species listed under the Endangered Species Act still survive today, and hundreds are on the road to recovery. It is also extraordinarily popular. According to peer reviewed research, nine out of 10 Americans support the Act and want it either strengthened or left unchanged by Congress.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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