Last Thursday, the Inspector General for the Department of the Interior reported that federal employees at Interior’s Minerals Management Service in Denver Colorado had engaged in sex and used drugs with energy company employees, provided information to industry favorites, and accepted thousands of dollars in gifts from oil and gas industry operatives while handling contracts worth billions of dollars for oil and gas resources on public land. Ironically, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics had recognized the Interior Department just three days earlier with a “2008 Education and Communication Award” “for developing a dynamic laminated Ethics Guide for employees.” One wonders if the guide was laminated to protect it from spilled liquor and jacuzzi bubbles.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dale Hall also received an award last week. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies honored Director Hall with a lifetime achievement award for working with states and conservation partners to conserve wildlife resources in the United States. The absurdity continues. Prior to being promoted to director of USFWS, Dale Hall was criticized by his own employees for his domineering and unethical management of the agency’s Southwest Regional Office. A survey of Southwest Region employees in 2005 found that:
- More than one in four respondents (29%) reported being “directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from a USFWS scientific document,” the highest percentage reported by any USFWS region.
- Two-thirds of respondents whose work is related to scientific findings on endangered species reported being “directed, for non-scientific reasons to refrain from making…findings that are protective of species.”
- Two in five scientists (41%), more than in any other region, believed the agency did not “routinely provide complete and accurate information to the public on ESA issues.”
- Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63%) did not believe the USFWS fostered a work ethic that promotes the agency’s conservation mission.
- Nearly three in four respondents (73%) did not believe the agency “is moving in the right direction.”
- More than three-quarters (85%) believed the USFWS was not “acting effectively to maintain or enhance species and their habitats, so as to avoid possible listings under the Endangered Species Act.”
- For those species already listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA, more than nine out of 10 (95%) did not regard the USFWS as effective in its efforts toward recovery of those listed species.
- Four out of five respondents (83%) did not “trust USFWS decision makers to make decisions that will protect species and habitats.”
- Fewer than one in five (19%) respected the “integrity and professionalism” of their agency heads.
Despite these findings—or perhaps because of them—the Bush Administration determined that Hall’s record warranted his ascension to director of USFWS, where he presided over the longest species listing drought in the history of the Endangered Species Act and despite a long list of species that need protection under the act.