Interior Dept. Endangers Science with Secrecy

Friday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that it would review a small number of the Endangered Species Act decisions in which disgraced former Interior Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald had participated, acknowledging for the first time that MacDonald had "inappropriate influence"over endangered species science.

While we welcome the revisiting of decisions where political interference has been documented, the list of species under consideration is neither comprehensive nor exhaustive.

If the agency truly wants to get to the bottom of this, then asking the regional directors to identify the problems is not enough. Any agency scientist should have been able to provide input.

The real culprit here is not a renegade political appointee. The real culprit is a process where decisions are made behind closed doors. Information is the currency of democracy.

Americans have the right to know the scientific basis of decisions that affect the survival of species they care about. Until the decision-making process is open to public scrutiny, science will continue to be endangered at the Interior Department.

Months have gone by since these allegations came to light without a clear signal from Secretary Kempthorne that manipulation of science will not occur under his watch. Secreary Kempthorne should send a clear message to all Interior appointees that substituting opinion for science is unacceptable.

The Interior Department should engage in a systematic review of all Bush administration decision -- not just those where interference has been exposed -- to ensure that the science behind those decisions was not altered or distorted.