Skip to comments.CA: Records show Interior aide assisted endangered species challenge
Posted on 12/19/2004 2:32:54 PM PST by NormsRevenge
SACRAMENTO - A series of e-mails and telephone calls related to two high-profile environmental decisions in California has prompted criticism that business interests may be gaining too much influence over the U.S. Interior Department.
According to court records, Deputy Assistant Interior Secretary Julie MacDonald tried to change scientific recommendations related to protecting wetland species and endangered fish.
In the first instance, the correspondence was between MacDonald, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managers and the California Farm Bureau Federation in April. A month later, the federation used the information to back a federal lawsuit in Washington, D.C., seeking to overturn the service's decision continuing protection for the delta smelt.
MacDonald sent an e-mail to regional officials in California disputed that they could reasonably estimate the remaining population of the tiny fish, which federal biologists had determined is in danger of extinction.
She then telephoned the farm bureau's chief lawyer and read her the e-mail, providing the farm bureau with a printout of the e-mail the same day.
Environmental groups say such contacts suggest top-level administrators at the nation's land management agencies care more about business interests than the wildlife they're assigned to protect.
MacDonald, whose office is in Washington, D.C., confirmed the e-mail and the telephone calls in an interview with The Associated Press but said they do not indicate bias against the Endangered Species Act.
"This was part of an ongoing series of calls in which they were unhappy with a decision that had been made. This was a case where I had to agree with them," MacDonald said.
During dry periods, the delta smelt clusters around the gigantic intake pipes that draw water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta before sending it south to Central Valley farms and Southern California. The endangered species designation forces water managers to slow the pumps just when farmers need the water most.
"This has real consequences for our members. It's not hypothetical," said Brenda Southwick, the farm bureau lead attorney MacDonald called that day. "We can't grow crops without water."
MacDonald said the Interior Department supported the Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to continue protections for the smelt, although that isn't evident in her e-mail. The e-mail challenges the science behind the ruling, particularly its reliance on population estimates and other "flawed assumptions and data."
MacDonald also intervened at the last minute to exclude five California counties from wetlands protections in a separate decision that aided farmers and land developers. She now acknowledges that decision was based on a flawed analysis.
In that case, MacDonald substituted her own cost-benefit analysis for that done by the Fish and Wildlife Service. She made the changes the night before a court-ordered decision was due on establishing critical habitat for 15 plants and animals that survive only in shallow seasonal pools across much of California.
MacDonald wrote Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Craig Manson in a July 2003 e-mail, saying the costs of establishing critical habitat outweighed the economic benefits in five counties - Butte, Madera, Merced, Sacramento and Solano.
Wildlife managers later discovered her analysis was flawed. For example, it underestimated each county's annual taxable sales a thousandfold, which affected her cost analysis.
"This is like the stupidest mistake in the world. It's humiliating to have made it," MacDonald told the AP.
Nonetheless, Manson excluded the five counties, with some of MacDonald's reasoning showing up word-for-word in the final decision. She said the correct numbers wouldn't have altered her recommendation to eliminate the five counties with the highest unemployment rates.
In that case, the exchange worked in the favor of the environmental groups, as the service agreed to reconsider. Its new decision is expected in July.
Imagine that, taking input from a business.
One can never have too much influence by ignorant whackjobs and the Bugs and Bunny crowd, but any influence by business and science is "too much"!
The last time I checked my paycheck had a buisness logo on it. I don't recall receiving a check from the Kangaroo Rat or the Spotted Owls, so if I vote to keep farms and buisness in CA, the Rats will have to forgive me (or regularly send a check).
Who is assigned to protect wildlife? - That is a violation of "separation of Church and State;" Government activities cannot cater to the church of Earth Worship.
Anyone ever seen this Formula?
Do they count the Human's incomes also?