Senior Bush Appointee Rejected Scientists’ Recommendations In Favor Of Industry Positions

Julie MacDonald, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, has consistently “rejected staff scientists’ recommendations to protect imperiled animals and plants under the Endangered Species Act.” A civil engineer with no training in biology, she has overruled and disparaged the findings of her staff, instead relying on the recommendations of political and industry groups. Some highlights:

MacDonald presented industry positions as equivalent to scientific studies. In 2004, a panel of Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) biologists recommended giving the greater sage grouse protection under the Endangered Species Act. But in her review of the panel’s report, she denigrated many scientific studies as mere “opinion,” and stated, “We should treat [them] as we would treat an industry publication,” she wrote.

MacDonald pressed staff biologists to more seriously consider industry positions. During a dicussion of the great sage grouse population, MacDonald wrote, “This paragraph completely ignores the comments received by the Owyhee Cattlemen’s Association and the Idaho Cattle Association.” As the Washington Post notes, the organizations “opposed the listing on the grounds that it would limit their use of land where the birds live.”

— Under MacDonald, the Department of the Interior (DOI) reversed a staff ruling based on comments from the Air Force. In 2000, FWS published recognized Tabernaemontana rotensis as a species and proposed to list it as an endangered species. The T. rotensis tree has been reduced to approximately 30 plants found primarily on lands managed by the Air Force. In 2004, the decision to list was reversed, “prompted in part by a comment from the Air Force.”


Under the Bush administration, just 56 species have been listed under the Endangered Species Act, for a rate of about 10 a year. Under Clinton, officials listed 512 species, or 64 a year, and under George H.W. Bush, the department listed 234, or 59 a year.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Union of Concerned Scientists have more.