Monday, April 02, 2007

But We Plan To Put Nice Pictures Of The Birds In All The Corporate Lobbies

Full disclosure: we're not big fans of outside. Our idea of camping is a hotel without cable. This penchant for clean sheets and indoor plumbing probably goes back to our childhood traumas. At least once during the warm months the camping bug would bite our old daddy and it was off to the woods for our long suffering, sainted mother, our poor allergic pooch and us. Camping consisted of a pull behind pop up trailer, a hibachi and lots of adult beverages. For the grown ups the weekend was spent melting into lawn chairs while the children ran unaccompanied through the forest getting poison ivy.

Still, we have a lot of respect for the outside, considering most of the planet is there, which brings us to one Julie MacDonald, A senior Bush political appointee at the Interior Department. Now, you would think that president macho outdoors man, rancher, cowboy would at least want to preserve enough of the environment so Cheney wouldn't have to shoot his friends because there was no game left.

Or not.

Julie A. MacDonald, deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks repeatedly altered scientific field reports to minimize protections for imperiled species and disclosed confidential information to private groups seeking to pave over the state of California, the department's inspector general concluded. "Well, sure, it sounds bad when you say it like that," said a spokesperson for MacDonald.

The IG noted that MacDonald "admitted that her degree is in stenography and that she has no formal educational background from about ninth grade on," but repeatedly instructed Fish and Wildlife scientists to change their recommendations on identifying "critical habitats," despite her inability to spell 'habitat.' "Hey, I've been outside. A lot," MacDonald told reporters. "Those animals all those science nerds studied? They're pretty small. I don't think they need that much room. We'll put some trees around the edges of the parking lot."

Inspector General Earl E. Devaney referred the case to Interior's top officials for potential administrative action. "Ooooh, I'm scared,"MacDonald said at a press conference. "Just tell Devaney I've got Cheney's private cell number and lots of accidents happen outside. I'm just saying."

According to Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall, MacDonald tangled with field personnel over designating habitat for the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher, a bird whose range is from Arizona to New Mexico and Southern California. When scientists wrote that the bird had a "nesting range" of 2.1 miles, MacDonald told field personnel to change the number to 1.8 miles. Hall, a wildlife biologist who told the IG he had had a "running battle" with MacDonald, said she did not want the range to extend to California because her husband had a family ranch there. "Oh, three tenths of a mile. Big whoop," MacDonald said. "We needed to move the range back because of our pool."

The report also said MacDonald "misused her position" by disclosing confidential documents to "private sector sources" such as the Pacific Legal Foundation and the California Farm Bureau Federation, both of which have challenged endangered-species listings. "Oh sure, "MacDonald said." Everybody's looking out for the stupid birds, but who looks out for the corporations, huh? What about their environment?"

Kieran Suckling, policy director for the advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity, said "She has demoralized the entire U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by deriding its scientists, overruling its decision-makers, and showing complete disregard for professional channels of decision making."

"Just doing the job the president hired me to do," MacDonald responded.

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