After years of research, scientists at the Fish and Wildlife Service celebrated as they finished a comprehensive report of the threat that three commonly used pesticides pose to countless endangered species.
Their analysis, finished in August 2017, concluded that malathion and chlorpyrifos were so noxious that they "jeopardize the continued existence" of over 1,200 endangered animals and plants. The results led them to recommend tighter restrictions on pesticide use.
But as the team finalized plans to publicize their findings in November 2017, top appointees of the Interior Department, under which the Fish and Wildlife Service operates, prevented the release and began implementing much lower standards in the risk assessment of pesticides. Then-deputy secretary of the interior and former lobbyist David Bernhardt led the intervention. A month before the scheduled release, he held a series of meetings on short notice in which he directed the Fish and Wildlife Service to take a new approach—one that the pesticide industry had lobbied furiously to promote.
Bernhardt has been nominated by President Trump to become the interior secretary. A confirmation hearing is scheduled on Thursday.
The Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency released over 84,000 pages detailing the sequence of events via Freedom of Information requests by The New York Times and by the Center for Biological Diversity.