N.D. congressman questions the U.S. FWS Director on lack of transparency
April 8, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Kevin Cramer questioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on its lack of transparency and questionable enforcement of wildlife laws on March 26. For more than 10 months, the FWS has delayed fulfilling requests for documents providing insight into the development of its enforcement policies. There are concerns the Obama Administration is being selective in determining which energy producers are investigated or prosecuted under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
At the hearing held by the Natural Resources Committee, Cramer pressed FWS Director Dan Ashe on his agency's delays in providing documents requested by Congress, and the excessive amount of redactions they contain. When Ashe cited time and resource constraints, Cramer referenced the aggressive targeting of North Dakota energy companies over migratory bird deaths as an example of the agency's ample resources.
"Mr. Ashe, previous to getting elected to Congress I spent nearly 10 years as an energy regulator in North Dakota. I oversaw 1500 megawatts of new wind development in a state that is the second leading producer of oil. The very famous migratory bird case in North Dakota is very familiar to me. And we want to talk about diverting agents from important international crime rings, and we talk about responding to a request for information as a "gross diversion" from that very important work of finding international criminals. Your agents scoured western North Dakota to find seven dead ducks, and then brought charges through the Justice Department against three oil companies," said Cramer.
On May 16, 2013, the Committee sent an initial document request letter to Director Ashe, seeking copies of its investigation reports and other communications. In December, the FWS provided hundreds of redacted pages without any accompanying justification. As a result, on January 16 Cramer and the Committee voted 26 to 14 to authorize Chairman Doc Hastings to issue a subpoena for the information. To date, the FWS has still not fully complied with the subpoena.
"When I was a regulator in North Dakota, if we provided redacted documents to the legislature, it would have been our last day on the job," added Cramer.