Interior Department to Correct for Past Political Interference

Another example of Bush Administration political interference in science came out in October 2006, when it was discovered that Julie MacDonald, the deputy assistant secretary of the interior for fish and wildlife and parks (a political appointee), had actively censored scientific information and inappropriately elevated industry concerns to prevent new additions to the Endangered Species list. MacDonald resigned in May 2007, and now the Interior Department is reviewing eight of her decisions. As The New York Times reports today, these are likely to be overturned:

The Interior Department said Friday that it would review and probably overturn eight decisions on wildlife and land-use issues made by a senior political appointee who has been found to have improperly favored industry and landowners over agency scientists.

The appointee, Julie A. MacDonald, resigned on May 1 as a deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, after an internal review found that she had violated federal rules by giving government documents to lobbyists for industry. The agency's inspector general also found several instances in which Ms. MacDonald browbeat department biologists and habitat specialists and overruled their recommendations to protect a variety of rare and threatened species....

The species that could receive additional protection are the white-tailed prairie dog, Preble's meadow jumping mouse, 12 species of Hawaiian picture-wing flies, the arroyo toad, the Southwestern willow flycatcher, the California red-legged frog and the Canada lynx. The extent of Rocky Mountain habitat protection for the jumping mouse is also under review.

This is a good sign to see the Interior Department making a fairly active and visible effort at reversing this past political interference, although it's not at the level of what NASA did in the wake of its own scandal. The scandal that the Administration needs to most atone for right now, though, is the Surgeon General scandal, although I don't expect any action there in the foreseeable future, especially considering how outrageous the Administration's proposed successor to the post, James Holsinger, is.

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