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Investigative Report of Alleged Improper Influence by the Secretary of the Interior in the FWS' Scientific Process

Report Information

Date Issued
Report Number
Report Type
We investigated an allegation that Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, when he was the Deputy Secretary, interfered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS’) scientific process during an assessment of the effects of pesticides on endangered species. We investigated whether Secretary Bernhardt exceeded or abused his authority by influencing consultations between the FWS and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the proposed registration or re-registration of three pesticides, and whether his involvement in the consultations violated his ethics pledge or Federal ethics regulations. We found that Secretary Bernhardt reviewed a draft FWS opinion on the potential biological effects one of the three pesticides could have on endangered species, and he instructed the FWS team developing the opinion to change its method for determining the potential effects. This change has delayed the completion of the opinion, but we found no evidence that Secretary Bernhardt exceeded or abused his authority or that his actions influenced or altered the findings of career FWS scientists. We also found no evidence that Secretary Bernhardt’s involvement in this matter violated his ethics pledge or Federal ethics regulations. On January 7, 2021, this report was corrected to remove an inaccurate footnote. This correction did not affect our findings.
Joint Report
Agency Wide
Questioned Costs
Funds for Better Use