Washington Watchdogs: Meddling at Interior
"Political meddling at the Department of Interior into the designation of imperiled species and habitats was more widespread than previously thought, investigators found, according to a lengthy inspector general's report released today.

The report focused on 20 questionable decisions made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, finding that Julie A. MacDonald, former deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, had a hand in at least 13 of them. But the report also found that MacDonald, a senior Bush political appointee, had help from others at the agency who "enabled her behavior" and "aided and abetted" her.

MacDonald resigned under pressure in May 2007 after investigators found that she had tampered with scientific evidence, improperly removed species and habitats from the endangered-species list, and gave internal documents to oil industry lobbyists and property rights groups.

Seven rulings made by MacDonald under the 30-year-old Endangered Species Act were subsequently revised, including the placement of the white-tailed prairie dog and Preble's meadow jumping mouse, a threatened mammal that lives in Wyoming and Colorado, back on the list.

H. Dale Hall, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, has called the MacDonald episode a "blemish.""

Get the Story:
Report: Interior Office Meddled With Endangered Species Act (The Washington Post 12/16)

OIG Report:
Investigative Report of The Endangered Species Act and the Conflict between Science and Policy (December 2008)

Related Stories:
Report finds political influence by Interior official (12/16)
Interior official resigns after breaking rules (5/2)