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Official Wrongfully Influenced Endangered Species Decisions

December 17, 2008

In a report released on Monday, Interior Inspector General Earl Devaney accused a high-ranking Interior Department official of exerting improper political interference on many more rulings than previously thought.

In March 2007, Julie A. MacDonald, a senior Bush political appointee was revealed to have altered scientific field reports to reduce protections for endangered species. She resigned in May 2007

MacDonald, former deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks played a role in at least 13 of 20 questionable decisions made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to the lengthy report.

“MacDonald’s zeal to advance her agenda has caused considerable harm to the integrity of the ESA program and to the morale and reputation” of the Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as potential harm to animals under the Endangered Species Act,” said Devaney.

“Her heavy-handedness has cast doubt on nearly every ESA decision issued during her tenure,” from 2002 until 2007, the report said. MacDonald was deputy assistant secretary from 2004 to 2007 and a senior adviser in the department for two years before that.

The report also contained accusations against MacDonald’s boss, former Assistant Secretary Craig Manson, as well as several other high-ranking Interior officials, including Randal Bowman, a special assistant to Manson, and Thomas Graf, a department lawyer.

The report also found that MacDonald had help from others at the agency who “enabled her behavior” and “aided and abetted” her.

“Where we have identified problems, we have gone back and revisited those decisions,” said Chris Tollefson, a spokesman for Fish and Wildlife. “From our perspective, we’re moving forward.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who requested the report, called on congressional leaders to “take immediate steps to make sure that Julie MacDonald’s legacy can never be repeated.”

Image Caption: The Siberian Tiger is a subspecies of tiger that is critically endangered, 3 subspecies of tiger are already extinct. Courtesy Wikipedia

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