Even as it admits inappropriate political influence ruined seven endangered species decisions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is resolutely endeavoring to ignore the skewing of science, law and policy in decisions involving Northwest species. The public deserves a wider review of tainted decision-making.
To its credit, the agency last week said it would reconsider findings in the seven cases where a former top official, Julie MacDonald, twisted the science. Congress can help with additional money.
But the seven are a pitifully small sampling of the cases where the ideologically driven MacDonald set up industry to ravage wildlife habitat. The Earthjustice law firm, the Union of Concerned Scientists and various members of Congress have complained about the agency’s absurd narrowing of what decisions to review. The scientists’ group suggests the agency establish a hot line to hear from employees about improper practices.
In addition to requesting a report from the congressional Government Accountability Office on improper influence on several other species decisions, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee has asked the Interior Department for a new spotted owl recovery plan. Scientists have denounced the plan.
Increasingly, the Bush administration appears to plan to wreck long-standing protections for Northwest forests just as it leaves office. Earthjustice’s Kristen Boyles said forest, stream and salmon protections are all “still in the sights of this administration.” The Senate needs to join the House in oversight hearings on the misuse of science in environmental policymaking. The reconsideration of seven decisions will have little meaning if the administration is allowed to continue its assault on species everywhere, including the Northwest.