The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) faces the challenge of reviewing policies on endangered species forged under the influence of disgraced wildlife official Julie MacDonald. The former deputy assistant secretary of U.S. Fish and Wildlife resigned in 2007 while under investigation by the Inspector General for intimidating staff into skewing scientific results and working in cahoots with right wing California lobbies.
After officially accusing MacDonald of corruption, Interior Department investigators determined in a Dec. 15 report that 13 federal decisions reached under the Endangered Species Act were adversely influenced by her involvement. One of those decisions dealt with designating critical habitat for bull trout, a threatened species native to western Montana. Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan sued the Interior in late 2004 over a perceived shortage of protected habitat.
On Dec. 22, U.S. attorneys defending the bull trout policy notified the district court in Oregon that they were reconsidering the case in light of the Inspector General’s findings. According to the brief, DOJ officials will “review the administrative record” regarding the bull trout habitat determination and report back to the court after 45 days.
“In our first review of the final critical habitat designation for bull trout we knew that this was not science-based,” says Arlene Montgomery of Friends of the Wild Swan. “The lack of migratory corridors, lack of protection for federal lands and other exclusions made no sense. That is why we went to court.”
In the opening letter of the Dec. 15 report, Inspector General Earl Devaney writes to Interior Secretary Dick Kempthorne about the vast implications of wiping away MacDonald’s tarnished legacy:
“In the end, the clout of MacDonald’s overreaching, and the actions of those who enabled and assisted her have caused the unnecessary expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars to re-issue decisions and litigation costs to defend decisions that, in at least two instances, the courts found to be arbitrary and capricious.”