Save the Prairie Dogs!!

or, Why political control of the bureaucracy matters.  This Washington Post story describes how a Bush political appointee at the Interior Department has repeatedly rejected the recommendations of government scientists to protect various endangered species.  The key facts:

A senior Bush political appointee at the Interior Department has
rejected staff scientists' recommendations to protect imperiled animals
and plants under the Endangered Species Act at least six times in the
past three years, documents show.

In addition, staff complaints
that their scientific findings were frequently overruled or disparaged
at the behest of landowners or industry have led the agency's inspector
general to look into the role of Julie MacDonald, who has been deputy
assistant secretary of the interior for fish and wildlife and parks
since 2004, in decisions on protecting endangered species.

The documents show that MacDonald has repeatedly refused to go along
with staff reports concluding that species such as the white-tailed
prairie dog  and the Gunnison sage grouse are at risk of extinction.
Career officials and scientists urged the department to identify the
species as either threatened or endangered.

So, in short, a political appointee without expertise in endangered species is overruling the professional opinions of government scientists who have their jobs because of their merit, not because of who they know.  Just one example of the many small ways in which it matter who (i.e., President Bush) is appointing the top level management at government bureaucracies. 

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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