Too Early to Celebrate: Interior Official Gone, but Political Interference Remains

She was a senior political appointee who ridiculed federal scientists. A civil engineer by training, she sarcastically rejected their recommendations. And she bragged about it.

Now she’s gone.

Julie McDonald, a deputy assistant secretary at the Fish and Wildlife Service, submitted her resignation on May 1, just weeks after an Interior Department Inspector General report criticized her for overriding recommendations of Fish and Wildlife scientists about how to protect endangered species.

While some toasted her departure, our mission has not yet been accomplished. Political interference at federal agencies remains a pervasive problem.

The IG investigation came after our organization, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), in partnership with several conservation organizations, released information documenting MacDonald’s actions. MacDonald reversed scientific findings and ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to adopt her edits. In several cases, her interference resulted in changing a “positive