Interior Science Has Integrity Issues, Inspector General Says

Politics still reigns supreme in the Interior Department

A new report outlines how very little has changed under Obama and Salazar. Science is being ignored and managers manipulate it to support predetermined political outcomes.

In my experience, I would say that the Interior Department under Obama and Salazar is as bad or worse than under Bush and Kempthorne.  Substantial changes need to be made to protect the environment and imperiled species.

It seems that Obama appointed Salazar simply because a westerner is traditionally appointed due to the fact that the West has most of the public lands.  Well, as we can see with the Gulf oil spill and endangered species, there is much more to it than that. A Secretary of Interior needs to have a greater understanding of science rather than a simple understanding of politics and cattle ranching.

The report starts with this:

“The Department of the Interior (Interior) has never had, and currently operates without, a scientific integrity policy. Further, it has no requirement to track allegations of scientific misconduct, and its discipline and adverse action policy is deficient to the point that scientific misconduct deeds could go unpunished. Without sound policies to protect the scientific community and general public from potentially flawed scientific research, data, and publications, Interior’s reputation and its public trust are at risk.”

Here are a few examples cited by PEER

  • Continued efforts inside the Minerals Management Service to stifle scientists who raise environmental concerns about offshore drilling, as documented in an April 2010 Government Accountability Office report;
  • Endangered Species Act positions taken by the U.S. that fly in the face of the overwhelming weight of agency science, on issues ranging from the Florida panther to the sage grouse. As under Bush, conservation groups are able to prove in court that Obama agency stances are “arbitrary and capricious” for ignoring the best available science; and
  • Interior’s ongoing hostility toward whistleblowers and continued reliance on “gag orders” and other restrictions on specialists candidly discussing problems or sharing data.

Interior Science Has Integrity Issues, Inspector General Says.
No Safeguards against Political Manipulation of Science despite Repeated Scandals
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility






  1. jdubya Avatar

    Funny how the Sec of Interior is almost always from the west, and Justices on the Supreme Court are almost always from the east.

  2. Virginia Avatar

    We have a Secretary of the Interior who was a rancher and a POTUS whose only visit to the west was to go see Old Faithful. Why would they care about issues that affect western wildlife and environment? It is so utterly depressing to see what is happening in this country and watch the disregard for these issues by people who know nothing and do not care.

  3. mikarooni Avatar

    Hmmm, has anyone else noticed that Ken Salazar looks a lot like Jack Benny?

    1. WM Avatar

      I did. And, Elana Kagan looks a bit like John Belushi.

  4. steve c Avatar
    steve c

    It would be nice if defenders of wildlife put as much effort into holding Ken Salazar accountable as they do trying to keep Sarah Palin off of the discovery channel. A billboard in washington DC with Salazar’s head next to an oil slick would be nice…

    1. WM Avatar

      Shouldn’t that cow on the seal above be facing right? Do recall that Reagan’s Secretary of Interior James Watt actually sought to have the buffalo on the real seal turned that direction. Ah, yes, James Watt. Now there was a dim bulb, eclipsed only by EPA head Ann Burford Gorsuch (yes she was married to Bob Burford, head of the BLM).

      Talk about your ethics in government issues. By the way, from what I understand some of the push behind this ethics and integrity audit. and the Acting Interior Solicotor’s effort was was the result of the Jack Abramhoff scandal – the Bush administration lobbyist who screwed over a bunch of Indian tribes with the help of Interior advisors. There were many issues, but this was the posterchild event for the campaign.

    2. JimT Avatar

      You are forgetting all the corruption under Gale Norton and her successor, WM.

      As far as going after a Secretary of Interior publicly, it does more harm than good in the wonderful, upside down, create our own reality world of DC. There are lots of efforts by DOW to communicate to Salazar’s staff, and the Action Fund is a little freer to be actively critical, but for better or for worse, the method that gets things done in DC has always been quiet deals in the basement offices. For 8 years, the folks in organizations like DOW literally couldn’t talk to anyone in Interior..Bush’s orders. At least they can get some phone calls returned now…

  5. kt Avatar

    Steve C: That is a great idea! An oil slick, a cow pie …

  6. Dean Malencik Avatar
    Dean Malencik

    Virginia, I agree with you. Obama was from and has always lived in an urban environment. I suspect he has no interest in the wild lands that exist out West except for their utility for extraction.

  7. mp Avatar

    Dairy Syncline Mine EIS comment period ends today May13. The Simplot Co’s proposed future mine to come on line in 10 years requires a land exchange with the Caribou NF. There is only one plan proposed, no other alternative. The Simplot Co wants to trade a parcel of land they acquired from the State of Idaho for a parcel of Caribou NF land near their proposed Dairy Syncline Mine. The other alternative that I am asking conservationists to comment on today is for the Simplot Co to purchase the private inholdings (120 acres) on Caribou Mountain inside the Caribou City Roadless Area-Caribou NF, and exchange them for the parcel of Caribou NF land they want near their proposed Dairy Syncline Mine.
    Please send comments to Dairy_Syncline_EIS@blm. gov today.

  8. mp Avatar

    You can see photos of scenic glaciated Caribou Mountain on the website This website is located on Ralph’s website right here under Places. Click on state of Idaho, select Caribou NF, select Caribou City RA. Ralph and I have photos of the Caribou City RA on

  9. JimT Avatar


    I agree that Interior continues to need to be reformed, but I am wondering just how difficult or impossible a task that is after so many years of it being basically a cesspool of integrity when it comes to science? I harken back to my days of studying bureaucracies and organizations, and how much these entities have a life and value system independent of the folks who inhabit them. Reformers quickly get overwhelmed by the sheer task of turning the oil tanker in the ocean,if you will. Given that, and given the tremendous degree of burrowing that was done at the end of the Bush administration, I am wondering if we had John Muir or Pinchot in charge, if even that kind of charismatic leader would be able to turn things around after so many years of corruption.

    Salazar is a cowboy, not a scientist, for sure. And Obama is overwhelmed by the sheer number and extent of the “fronts” he is fighting on right now and since he came into office. And like most of our Presidents in the past several decades, if you really think about it, doesn’t understand the West. I think you have to go back to Teddy R. to find a President who had the right instincts about the lands and resources of this country.

    I know Jon, for one, has written him off after barely a year in office. I think too soon. I also think he will be more than a one term President IF by 2012, people have jobs. Period. Clinton was a guy who couldn’t keep his zipper zipped, but he was right about one thing: ultimately, it is the economy, stupid.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ken Cole