National Archives Urged to Reject Trump Administration Plan to Destroy Key Records on Endangered Species, Public Lands

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2018 — The Center for Biological Diversity and 10 other groups are opposing a U.S. Department of the Interior request to destroy records related to recovery of endangered species and management of millions of acres of public lands. Thousands of documents could be at stake.

The wildlife and conservation groups submitted comments today to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration urging the agency to reject the destructive proposal from the department headed by scandal-ridden Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

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“Zinke’s effort to destroy these key documents serves political interests and industrial polluters at the expense of wildlife and the environment,” said Meg Townsend, the Center’s open government attorney. “The Trump administration wants to bury science and hide how mining, drilling and logging on public lands devastate our precious natural spaces.”

In September the Interior Department asked the National Archives to authorize a schedule allowing for records destruction. It applies to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and other Interior agencies.

If approved the plan would shred technical and scientific records on land-use planning, data from water-quality monitoring, and documents used in the development and implementation of recovery plans to restore endangered native species. 

“We’re asking the National Archives to reject Interior’s request and instead permanently store these records in searchable, electronic format,” Townsend said. “None of these valuable documents should be destroyed.”

The Interior Department began developing the schedule under the Obama administration, and it is billed as an effort to make document destruction consistent across agencies.

But the schedule’s language gives broad authority to Secretary Zinke to destroy records that form the historic record of government efforts to conserve endangered species and public lands. Such documents could be important to holding the government accountable and conducting scientific reviews of its public-lands and endangered-species decisions. 

www.biologicaldiversity.org