Zinke plans to destroy Interior Department records

Part of broad effort to weaken the Endangered Species Act, hide information on oil leases and land purchases

Published October 27, 2018 8:29AM (EDT)

 (AP/Carolyn Kaster/Getty/aeduard/Salon)
(AP/Carolyn Kaster/Getty/aeduard/Salon)

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Republicans have been trying to weaken protections for endangered animals, and now they are trying to get permission to destroy some records about what animals are protected.

Trump’s Interior Department, headed by Ryan Zinke, wants to destroy records such as proposals to help endangered species recover and proposals for protecting where the animals live. The request is part of a proposed massive purge of Interior records that also includes records about oil and gas leases, timber sales, dams and land purchases.

“This is really bad for endangered species, which need to be monitored over time and to ensure conservation action has been effective,” said Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is yet another attempt by the Trump administration to undermine protections for endangered species for their buddies in various polluting industries.”

The reviewers did recommend permanently keeping records including final and summarized reports about endangered species and scientific assessments. Those records would be transferred to the National Archives where they would be more difficult to get under the Freedom of Information Act for reporters and other researchers.

Writer Russ Kick whose web site, AltGov 2, features government data, said the Interior proposal is “a massive, department-wide request.”

More than 1,600 species have been listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act which was signed into law by former President Richard Nixon in 1973. The law had strong support from Republicans in the 1970s.

Zinke is working to change how the Endangered Species Act is enforced. Zinke wants to make it easier to remove protectionfor a species and have less protection for threatened species. He recently hired Robert Gordon, the author of a reportclaiming the Endangered Species Act has cost our country, hundreds of billions of dollars, as the deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Interior Department.

A recent memo at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, part of the Interior Department, directs staffers to withhold, or delay releasing, some public documents about how the Endangered Species Act is carried out.

By Sarah Okeson

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Dcreport Endangered Species Act Interior Department U.s. Fish And Wildlife Service