Pulling the Trigger on Gunnison Sage Grouse

A report in the Denver Post tells of how politicians in the Department of the Interior have blocked listing of several species as endangered, including the Gunnison sage grouse.

Much of the criticism of the listing decisions was directed at Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie MacDonald, who the environmental groups say reversed several scientific findings without any biological justification.

MacDonald said in an interview she does not make decisions whether to grant federal protection to a species. That responsibility, she said, belongs to the head of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

She did say it is her job to protect “the public face of the Fish and Wildlife Service” by carefully scrutinizing listing documents.

MacDonald, a hydraulic engineer, was Deputy Secretary for Legislative Affairs in California under Gov. Pete Wilson, and the blurbs about her appointment at her federal job note that service and her role in helping obtain passage of new provisions to the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) in 1996. I thought it might be useful to find out exactly what she helped pass, but after various searches online I’ve pretty much given up on that. The fact that Wilson is noted for having attempted in 1995 to simply waive the CESA by executive fiat would seem to lessen the likelihood that MacDonald was doing anything to strengthen the CESA back then.

The “public face of the Fish and Wildlife Service” is a curious thing to aim at protecting. It seems to me that biologists doing their job well — and being allowed to do so — is far more likely to make the US FWS service look good than having a hydraulic engineer second-guess things.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.