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Corruption In Department Of Interior| Delays Listing, Environmentalists Say

TUCSON (CN) - Corruption of former Deputy Secretary of the Interior Julie MacDonald caused Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to refuse to list the Mexican garter snake as endangered, the Center for Biological Diversity claims in Federal Court.

The Mexican gartersnake, Thamnophis eques megalops, has been exterminated in New Mexico, the complaint states. The snake survives only along streams and in wetlands in southern Arizona and northwestern Mexico, where it faces extinction due to habitat loss, non-native species, predation, capture and killing. "Despite this evidence, Defendants ... determined that the Mexican gartersnake did not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act.

"(Defendants') decision, however, is entangled in the scandal surrounding the improper and unlawful political influence of former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Julie MacDonald over a number of ESA listing and critical habitat decisions. Indeed, due to this scandal, and FWS's own evidence that Ms. MacDonald unlawfully influenced and changed the outcome of the Mexican gartersnake's listing decision, the agency stated that it would re-do the snake's listing decision - but not until fiscal year 2009. Until then, the Mexican gartersnake languishes in bureaucratic limbo without the substantive protections afforded by the ESA, and continu(es) to be impacted by the ongoing and imminent threats to its existence."

The Mexican garter snake grows to be about 44 inches long, "ranging in color from olive to olive-brown to olive-gray, with three yellowish stripes that run the length of the body. A conspicuous, light-colored crescent extends behind the corners of the mouth."

The complaint cites the defendants' inter-office correspondence that recognizes the threats to the state, and MacDonald's interference in its listing. See complaint.

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