USFWS to reconsider seven endangered-species rulings due to “improper influence”
Seventeen imperiled species may have another shot at getting increased protections now that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service admitted that a political appointee who resigned last May “may have improperly influenced” decisions at the agency. The ex-official, Julie MacDonald, was accused of overriding scientists’ recommendations in order to make decisions beneficial to industry and detrimental to endangered species. The FWS agreed last week to reconsider only seven of MacDonald’s most contentious decisions, affecting 17 species. Critics argue that the agency is only doing damage control since five of the species decisions under review have been compelled by court cases and MacDonald presided over some 200 species and habitat decisions during her tenure. FWS’ round of re-reviews, many of which will only be conducted if there is available funding, include critical-habitat decisions for the Canada lynx, arroyo toad, California red-legged frog, 12 species of Hawaiian picture-wing flies, and the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse. The agency will also take a year to consider whether to list the white-tailed prairie dog under the Endangered Species Act and rethink its decision to delist the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse.