Saturday, July 21, 2007

USFWS Reconsidering ESA Designations

Remember Julie MacDonald, the Interior Department official who interfered with the work of her subordinates? The Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened the cases of 18 species that were removed from the Endangered Species List at her direction.

Fish and Wildlife Director H. Dale Hall told reporters in a conference call that decisions affecting the fate of the white-tailed prairie dog, Preble's meadow jumping mouse, arroyo toad, southwestern willow flycatcher, California red-legged frog, Canada lynx and 12 species of Hawaiian picture-wing flies will be reexamined.


First as a special assistant and later as deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, MacDonald was involved in more than 200 rulings on endangered species between 2002 and May 2007, when she resigned following an inspector general's report that found she had improperly leaked information to private organizations, bullied staff scientists and broken federal rules.

Interior's regional directors submitted a list of 11 decisions they believed were influenced by MacDonald, but three were struck off the list following further discussions with Hall.

Two of the decisions -- a ruling on a regional listing of the marbled murrelet seabird and the habitat of the bull trout -- were pulled from the list Thursday.


Boyles also noted that the agency chose not to review MacDonald's involvement in a decision to delist the Sacramento splittail, a species of fish that lives in waters on an 80-acre farm MacDonald owns within the species' limited habitat in California's Central Valley.
While I would have preferred to see consideration for the marbled murrelet, this is a step in the right direction. I hope that this time the decisions can be made based on evidence rather than the instructions of political appointees with industry ties. I also hope that some of the species denied listing - like the cerulean warbler, sage grouse, and red knot - will also get a second look.