“The Trump administration continues to face ethical challenges in its reckless drive to achieve ‘energy dominance,’ while pandering to the oil and gas industry,” said Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark. “Birds are facing a crisis as research shows that 3 billion have been lost since 1970. Instead of attacking our bedrock wildlife conservation laws, the administration should be reaffirming the nation’s commitment to protecting birds.”

Washington, DC

According to PEER, 10 prominent retired public affairs, communications and outreach professionals have criticized their former agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), for violating press relations norms and fairness policies in a complaint to the Inspector General


The controversy stems from a FWS press release that announced a public comment period on the proposed rule to weaken the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The Trump administration proposed formal regulations to cement into law a hotly-disputed legal opinion declaring that the MBTA does not protect birds from harms caused by industrial activities, dramatically undercutting the law’s ability to conserve birds. 


The public affairs, communications and outreach professionals noted that the agency’s press release included 28 favorable statements from industry organizations and others. The complaint called the release “bizarre and unacceptable” and went on to highlight the unprecedented nature of the release, stating, “None of us ever issued a news release on a proposed regulation containing prejudicial statements from interest groups on one side of a policy debate, nor would we have permitted such a news release to be issued.”


“This was a serious breach of protocol and communications ethics in how the regulatory rule-making and public comment process was handled,” said David Klinger of Boise, Idaho, a former regional press chief with the FWS. “The Service’s commitment to fair and impartial regulatory rule-making has been called into question. With great reluctance, we chose to challenge our old agency in which we all were proud to serve.”

In February, a bipartisan coalition of 15 former Department of the Interior officials – including for USFWS director and current Defenders CEO and President, Jamie Rappaport Clark -- sent a letter to Interior Secretary Bernhardt condemning a new proposal to further weaken the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by ending all enforcement against unintentional but predictable killing of migratory birds by commercial activities.


“The Trump administration continues to face ethical challenges in its reckless drive to achieve ‘energy dominance,’ while pandering to the oil and gas industry,” said Rappaport Clark. “Birds are facing a crisis as research shows that 3 billion have been lost since 1970. Instead of attacking our bedrock wildlife conservation laws, the administration should be reaffirming the nation’s commitment to protecting birds.”


Signatories for the Inspector General complaint, included: 

 

  • Megan Durham Retired, Deputy Assistant Director External Affairs; formerly Chief of Public Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Michael L. Smith Retired, Deputy Assistant Director — External Affairs (Washington DC); formerly Assistant Regional Director — External Affairs (Region 6, Denver) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • David Klinger Retired, Assistant Regional Director — Public Affairs, Pacific Region (Portland); and Senior Writer Editor, National Conservation Training Center U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
  • Alan M. Levitt DOI Office of the Secretary, Deputy Director, Office of Public Affairs (1984-1990); formerly, Chief of Current Information, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1973-1984) 
  • K. Mitchell Snow Retired, Senior Legislative Affairs Communications Specialist, Bureau of Land Management; formerly Chief, Media Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Public Affairs Specialist, U.S. Geological Survey 
  • Bruce Woods Retired, Chief of Media Relations, Alaska Region, Anchorage, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
  • Patricia Foulk Retired, Assistant Field Supervisor — External Affairs, California State Office (Sacramento), U.S Fish and Wildlife Service 
  • Susan Saul Retired — Public Affairs Specialist, Outreach Specialist, Office of External Affairs, Pacific Region (Portland), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
  • Karen Sullivan Retired, Assistant Director for External Affairs, Alaska Region (Anchorage), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
  • Doug Zimmer Retired, Information and Education Specialist Division of Ecological Services, Lacey, Washington, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

Media Contact

Gwen Dobbs
Gwen Dobbs
Director of Media Relations
gdobbs@defenders.org
(202) 772-0269

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