Interior's "Inexcusable Conduct."
From: Sagebrush Sea Campaign
Federal Court Overturns Bush Administration's "Not Warranted" Listing Decision for Greater Sage-Grouse
Court Noted "Inexcusable Conduct" by Interior Department Official
The Federal District Court of Idaho rebuked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for failing
to consider the best available science when it refused to list greater sage-grouse as "threatened"
or "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act. The court reversed and remanded the
agency's 12-month "not warranted" listing decision issued in 2005.
The court also held that the agency's faulty decision "lacked a coherent analysis of the
deterioration of [sage-grouse] habitat and the regulatory mechanisms designed to protect the
sage-grouse" and was "tainted by the inexcusable conduct of one of its own executives…[former
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior] Julie MacDonald."
"The greater sage-grouse is the spotted owl of the Sagebrush Sea. It is the canary in the coal
mine that is telling us that the sagebrush steppe ecosystem is in as much peril as old-growth
forests," said Mark Salvo, Director of the Sagebrush Sea Campaign. "Livestock grazing, oil and
gas extraction, pipelines, powerlines, roads, fences and sprawl are all combining to drive the
greater sage-grouse toward extinction."
Judge B. Lynn Winmill, Chief of the U.S. District Court in Idaho, criticized the agency's curious
application of science to the listing decision, at one point stating: "What an odd process. Right at
the moment where the 'best science' was most needed, it was locked out of the room."
The Sagebrush Sea Campaign is a project of Forest Guardians and the lead petitioner to list the
greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act.
Key excerpts from the federal court decision:
"Sage grouse populations have been in significant decline for decades. While the rate of decline
has recently slowed, the sage-grouse's habitat is being subjected to accelerating threats from
invasive weeds, fires, energy development, and livestock grazing. About one-half of the original
area occupied by sage-grouse is no longer capable of supporting sage-grouse on a year-round
FWS decision process, by excluding sage-grouse experts from the listing decision, "creates
opacity when transparency is required." (p. 2-3)
"Furthermore, the FWS decision lacked a coherent analysis of habitat and the regulatory
mechanisms and the regulatory mechanisms designed to protect the sage-grouse." (p. 3).
"Finally, the FWS decision was tainted by the inexcusable conduct of one of its own executives,
Julie MacDonald, [whose] tactics included everything from editing scientific conclusions to
intimidating FWS staffers."
"MacDonald had extensive involvement in the sage-grouse listing decision, used her intimidation
tactics in this case, and altered the "best science" to fit a not-warranted decision."
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