pygmy rabbit flickr bonny_jean13Northwest endangered species have been generating a lot of ink lately. Rocky Mountain gray wolves are likely heading for de-listing. Meanwhile, Puget Sound’s orcas were recently added to the list. Even a recovery effort for a handful of rare rabbits made the news. There are plenty more examples, of course, but these species remind us that much of the region’s natural heritage relies on the protection afforded by federal laws.

So it’s a bit worrisome that there’s lately been whispering about big changes to the US Endangered Species Act. (A leaked memo from the US Fish and Wildlife Service suggests the agency is considering an adminstrative re-write of some rules.)

But perhaps even more worrisome was today’s revelation:

A senior Bush political appointee at the Interior Department has repeatedly altered scientific field reports to minimize protections for imperiled species and disclosed confidential information to private groups seeking to affect policy decisions, the department’s inspector general concluded.

[The appointee] “admitted that her degree is in civil engineering and that she has no formal educational background in natural sciences” but nevertheless repeatedly instructed Fish and Wildlife Service scientists to change their recommendations on identifying “critical habitats.”

I’m shocked. Shocked, I say.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user bonny_jean13 under a Creative Commons license.