News Releases

On his way out of office, former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt took unilateral action to remove critical habitat protections for Northern Spotted Owl on millions of acres of federal lands in the Pacific Northwest

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and a group of Western Democrats today in requesting the Inspector General of the Department of the Interior investigate whether former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt overruled guidance by career officials to push the Trump administration's destructive decision to remove critical habitat protections for the Northern Spotted Owl on 3.4 million acres of federal lands in the Pacific Northwest.

In a letter to Interior Inspector General Mark Greenblatt, the lawmakers wrote, “The USFWS decision appears to fit a larger pattern of malfeasance by the Trump administration’s political leadership at the Department of Interior. In less than two brief years under David Bernhardt’s leadership, the Department has been mired in one ethical scandal after another. Bernhardt and his loyalists have demonstrated a willingness to insert themselves into the scientific process in order to achieve preferred policy outcomes, withhold information from the public, and even mislead Congress.”

“While the Biden administration has taken actions to mitigate the effects of this rule, we ask that you quickly review this decision and to determine whether USFWS contradicted or ignored scientific recommendations made by career staff,” the lawmakers concluded.  

Senator Murray has long worked to protect endangered and threatened species in Washington state and throughout the Pacific Northwest, previously securing federal funding to promote conservation and protect habitats for the Spotted Owl and other species. Senator Cantwell has been a leading defender of endangered species throughout her time in office. In 2019, she introduced legislation to protect the Endangered Species Act efforts from the Trump administration’s unprecedented efforts to roll it back. She has also led the charge to codify the Roadless Rule, which protects millions of acres of forest habitat for numerous endangered species, and helped secure millions in funding for Puget Sound recovery efforts.

A full copy of the letter is available here.  

###