Interior official resigns

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By Keith Chu

WesCom Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - An Interior Department official accused of ethics lapses - including tampering with Endangered Species Act reports that affected the Klamath River - resigned Tuesday.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of the Interior confirmed the resignation of Julie MacDonald, deputy assistant secretary of the interior for fish and wildlife and parks.

andquot;She resigned, and that's about all we have to say about it,andquot; spokesman Hugh Vickery said.

A federal inspector general found in March that MacDonald improperly released internal government information and interfered with scientific findings. MacDonald pressured field staff to rewrite assessments for animals being considered for endangered species listing.

She also ordered department scientists to reverse their conclusions on the habitat for bull trout in the Klamath River Basin, encouraging a 90 percent reduction in habitat. The final ruling reduced the habitat from 296 miles to 42 miles, an 86 percent reduction.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., blocked a separate administration Interior Department nominee Monday to protest a lack of action on MacDonald's conduct.

He placed a hold on the confirmation of Lyle Laverty, who is nominated to serve as assistant secretary of the interior for the fish and wildlife and parks service.

Wyden didn't release his hold Tuesday.

andquot;I want to hear from Secretary (Dirk) Kempthorne what action he plans to take to be certain that we won't see this sort of problem again,andquot; Wyden said, in a statement submitted to the Congressional Record on Tuesday afternoon. andquot;I want to hear from Mr. Laverty what he would do, if he is confirmed to the post of assistant secretary, to end the politicization of the Fish and Wildlife Service.andquot;

?Ore. senator blocks president's Interior Department nominee, A2

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