Raúl Grijalva Pushes for Answers on Administration’s Weakening of Public Access to Endangered Species Records
The Trump administration is reportedly moving to restrict the release of information about its decisions on endangered species, according to a new guidance it has issued to employees. Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), the Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, worries that Interior’s withholding of important documents could increase, making it more difficult to challenge decisions that cause harm to imperiled species. The Congressman sent a letter on Friday to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke seeking information about the new guidance issued to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) employees which restricts information released through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests specifically related to the Endangered Species Act. In his letter, Grijalva raises concerns that an internal document recommended less transparency when responding to FOIA requests involving endangered species decisions. Specifically, the new guidance signaled “that records that could undermine positions taken by the FWS in court should be reviewed and possibly withheld.” Grijalva wrote that the “guidance undermines the implementation of the Endangered Species Act, and it significantly hinders the ability of the American people to hold their federal government accountable for its actions.” He expresses particular concern about the apparently intentional hiding of information on controversial projects like the Keystone XL pipeline -- which was met with great resistance from the Native American and environmental communities. Read the full letter here.