Obama's Nominee for Director of Fish & Wildlife Service Ignored Endangered Species Act


Photo via FWS

As a 30 year veteran of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the head of the entire 10-state Southeastern Region, Sam Hamilton seems like a pretty standard pick to be the Director of the government agency in charge of administering the Endangered Species Act. Just one thing: Hamilton has only worked to enforce the Endangered Species Act once in his entire illustrious career. Out of 5,974 consultations on whether development permits or federal agency action would interfere with endangered species' well being in his region, which has more endangered species than the rest of the country, Hamilton only objected once. One single objection to a project or action that might interfere with the welfare of an endangered species. Environmentalists are finding it hard to stomach the idea that that ratio reflects an actual consideration for endangered species: 6,000 development projects in an area loaded with endangered species, and only one that would effect the species? Seems fishy.

By way of comparison, the Rocky Mountain Region of the Fish and Wildlife Service did 586 consultations and filed 100 objections. Something seem off?

Indeed it does. The green group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, who first noted Hamilton's inaction on endangered species, is concerned that he'll continue to ignore the act as director of the FWS. PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch voiced his concern to the Environmental News Service:

"Under Sam Hamilton, the Endangered Species Act has become a dead letter," said Ruch, noting that the White House announcement on Hamilton touted his "innovative conservation" work. "Apparently, the word 'no' is not part of 'innovative' in Mr. Hamilton's lexicon."
Even more alarming are the findings of a 2005 PEER survey of 1,400 FWS scientists working to uphold the Endangered Species Act. The findings on Hamilton's region weren't pretty:
  • Nearly half (49%) of FWS respondents cited cases where "commercial interests have inappropriately induced the reversal or withdrawal of scientific conclusions or decisions through political intervention"

  • A similar percentage (46%) said they had been "directed, for non-scientific reasons, to refrain from making ... findings that are protective of species"

  • More than a third (36%) feared "retaliation" for merely expressing "concerns about the biological needs of species and habitats" and a similar number felt they were "not allowed to do my job as a scientist."
And while others laud Hamilton for his innovative take on conservation work--including President Obama--his dedication to the Endangered Species Act should be a serious concern in considering his candidacy for the post of Director of the entire Fish and WIldlife Service operation.

More on the Fish and Wildlife Service:
Delaying Tactics Puts US Wildlife in Hot Water
Bush Officials Launch Stealth Attack on US Wildlife

Tags: Animals | Barack Obama | Conservation | Endangered Species