October 22, 2018 - PORTLAND, Ore.— In a Trump administration memorandum leaked to the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is directing its staff to withhold, or delay releasing, certain public records about how the Endangered Species Act is carried out. That includes records where the advice of career wildlife scientists may be overridden by political appointees in the Trump administration.
“This is a clear attempt to stifle science and boost Trump’s anti-wildlife agenda,” said Meg Townsend, the Center’s open government attorney. “The public has every right to know how our government makes decisions about the fate of our most endangered species. This memo keeps the public in the dark and creates the perfect environment for political meddling.”
The memo recommends that the Service limit the information released to the public for decisions regarding species protected under the Endangered Species Act. It provides a list of types of records for agency staff to withhold, including drafts of policies and rules, briefing documents and decision meeting notes and summaries.
The agency has already implemented aspects of this guidance in actions like the Keystone XL pipeline construction lawsuit, and in the Service’s decision last year to prematurely remove endangered species protection from Yellowstone grizzly bears, as the memo confirms.
“Directing the agency to hide science violates every notion of the scientific process, which is supposed to be open and reviewable,” said Townsend. “If the Service covers up dissenting views, it can get away with all kinds of bad decisions that could do enormous damage to some of America’s most imperiled plants and animals.”
As this memo recommends that agency staff take a less transparent approach, Trump’s anti-wildlife agenda is being pushed at all levels of government. Removing the public’s ability to know what its government is doing — which is contrary to the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act — means that it will be more difficult to legally challenge agency actions that harm imperiled wildlife.
“This Trump memo would send all future Fish and Wildlife Service decisions into a black hole and result in more animals going extinct,” Townsend said. “If the Trump administration would simply let the Fish and Wildlife Service follow the law and support decisions with science, it wouldn’t need the memo or have anything to hide.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places
Source: Center for Biological Diversity
Ranking Member Grijalva Pushes for Answers On Interior Dept. Weakening of Public Access to Endangered Species Records
October 22, 2018 - Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent a letter last week to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke seeking information about new guidance issued to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) employees restricting information released through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests specific to the Endangered Species Act.
The full letter is available at http://bit.ly/2R1lEmj.
Grijalva raises concerns that an internal document, as recently reported by The Guardian, recommended less transparency when responding to FOIA requests involving endangered species decisions. Specifically, the letter states that the new guidance signaled “that records that could undermine positions taken by the FWS in court should be reviewed and possibly withheld.” Grijalva writes that the guidance “guidance undermines the implementation of the Endangered Species Act, and it significantly hinders the ability of the American people to hold their federal government accountable for its actions.”
He expresses particular concern about the apparently intentional hiding of information on controversial projects like the Keystone XL pipeline:
FOIA requests are critical for ensuring government transparency and allowing the public access to federal government records. For example, FOIA was used to obtain documents that showed that the FWS failed to adequately assess the impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline on endangered whooping cranes. A FOIA request revealed that the FWS ignored biologists’ recommendations to strengthen protections for red wolves and eliminate regulatory loopholes that allowed the species to be illegally killed. Under the new guidance, the likelihood for the FWS to withhold important documents like these could increase, making it more difficult to challenge decisions that cause harm to imperiled species.
Ranking Member Grijalva and committee Democrats have been vigilant in defending the Endangered Species Act even as the Trump administration and congressional Republicans have worked to //medium.com/@HNRDems/wasted-resources-killing-endangered-species-78be1968b5a7" weaken existing law.
Source: Natural Resources Committee Democrats Ranking Member Raul M.Grijalva