FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 29, 2007
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Melissa Waage, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 736-5760
Interior Department Official Distorted Agency's Own Science to Avoid
Protecting Endangered Species
Report From Inspector General of Department of Interior Blasts Assistant
Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald
WASHINGTON— A report released today by the Inspector General of the Department of Interior found that Assistant Secretary of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald, who has no biological training, rode roughshod over numerous decisions by agency scientists concerning protection of the nation’s endangered species. The report also found that MacDonald violated federal rules by sending internal documents to industry lobbyists with the right-wing Pacific Legal Foundation and others.
“Like the Jack Abramoff scandal, today’s report highlights the degree to which officials at the Department of Interior are in bed with industry lobbyists,” stated Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Clearly, pleasing Bush administration campaign contributors and special interests takes precedence over protection of the nation’s endangered species and habitats at the Department of Interior.”
According to the report, numerous former and current high level staff of the Fish and Wildlife Service stated that MacDonald’s interference in scientific decisions concerning endangered species was pervasive, aggressive, designed to limit protection and exposed the agency to litigation over poorly supported and politically motivated decisions. The former director of endangered species, for example, concluded that MacDonald “regularly bypassed managers to speak directly with field staff, often intimidating and bullying them into producing documents that had the desired effect” and that “the overall effect was to minimize the Endangered Species Act as much as possible or ensnare it in court litigation, which often happened.”
“It’s a travesty that a high-level political appointee with no training in biology is rewriting the conclusions of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists,” stated Melissa Waage, legislative director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Bush administration has an unwritten policy to systematically deny protection to imperiled wildlife, dooming them to extinction.”
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 second Bush administration has listed so few species in part because it has been denying species protection at record rates. 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, nearly 300 species languish on the candidate list without protection.
A copy of the Inspector General’s report is available at