Sunday, December 09, 2007

Endangered Government

One thing I learned in 15 years living in Our Nation's Capitol is how fast political appointees can damage the missions of government agencies. Here's an example I find particularly painful to consider: 7 Decisions on Species Revised: Fish and Wildlife Service Cites Possibility of Improper Influence by Juliet Eilperin, November 28, 2007 in the Washington Post.

After concluding that a Bush administration appointee "may have improperly influenced" several rulings on whether to protect imperiled species under the Endangered Species Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service has revised seven decisions on protecting species across the country.

The policy reversal, sparked by inquiries by the Interior Department's inspector general and by the House Natural Resources Committee, underscores the extent to which the administration is still dealing with the fallout from the tenure of Julie MacDonald, the deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks who repeatedly overruled agency scientists' recommendations on endangered-species decisions. MacDonald resigned from the department in May after she was criticized in a report by the inspector general and as she was facing congressional scrutiny.

In a letter dated Nov. 23 to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-W.Va.), acting Director Kenneth Stansell of the Fish and Wildlife Service said that the agency spent four months reviewing eight Endangered Species Act decisions made under MacDonald and is revising seven of them. Those rulings affected 17 species, including 12 species of Hawaiian picture-wing flies.

In the course of those reviews, for example, Mitch King, then the agency's Region 6 director, said in a June memo to headquarters that while the field and regional office's scientific review concluded there is "substantial" evidence that the white-tailed prairie dog faces a risk of extinction, "the change to 'not substantial' only occurred at Ms. MacDonald's suggestion."

....Rahall, who released the letter yesterday, said in a statement that the agency's move highlights the extent to which political ideology had influenced the administration's approach to protecting plants and animals. "Julie MacDonald's dubious leadership and waste of taxpayer dollars will now force the agency to divert precious time, attention, and resources to go back and see that the work is done in a reliable and untainted manner," Rahall said. "The agency turned a blind eye to her actions -- the repercussions of which will not only hurt American taxpayers, but could also imperil the future of the very creatures that the endangered species program intends to protect."

Mr. Rahall is our Representative here in Pocahontas County.


Dave said...

Yay! Keep him in office, will you?

It's nice to see the hens regaining at least partial guardianship of the hen house.

Rebecca Clayton said...

We'll try. I wonder if he likes to be thought of as a "hen."