February 02, 2021

Western Democrats Call for Investigation into Potential Scientific Meddling by Trump Administration in its Rule Threatening Spotted Owl

On his way out of office, David Bernhardt appeared to unilaterally act to remove critical habitat protections for Northern Spotted Owl on millions of acres of federal lands in the Pacific Northwest

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today led a group of Western Democrats requesting federal investigators determine whether former Secretary David Bernhardt overruled guidance by career officials to push the Trump administration's destructive rule to remove critical habitat protections for the Northern Spotted Owl on 3.4 million acres of federal lands in the Pacific Northwest.

Joining Wyden in the request for the U.S. Department of Interior Inspector General to review the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) decision were U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and U.S. Reps. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Jared Huffman, D-Calif.

In a letter to Interior Inspector General Mark Greenblatt, the lawmakers wrote, “The USFWS decision appears to fit a larger pattern of malfeasance by the Trump administration’s political leadership at the Department of Interior. In less than two brief years under David Bernhardt’s leadership, the Department has been mired in one ethical scandal after another. Bernhardt and his loyalists have demonstrated a willingness to insert themselves into the scientific process in order to achieve preferred policy outcomes, withhold information from the public, and even mislead Congress.”

“While the Biden administration has taken actions to mitigate the effects of this rule, we ask that you quickly review this decision and to determine whether USFWS contradicted or ignored scientific recommendations made by career staff,” the lawmakers concluded.  

A full copy of today’s letter is available here.