Hastings issues subpoena for bladderpod documents

Tri-City HeraldApril 8, 2014 

U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings has issued a subpoena to try to get answers on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recent decision to list the White Bluffs bladderpod as a threatened species.

Hastings said Monday that the Obama administration and Fish and Wildlife have failed to answer his questions. The agency provided 117 pages of documents, mainly information from the agency’s website, along with “vague promises” to provide more information in the future.

“This step is necessary to put an end to this deliberate stonewalling by the administration,” Hastings said in a statement. “Americans have a right to know what science and data went into a listing decision that could have serious economic impacts.”

The White Bluffs bladderpod is a yellow flowering plant thought to grow only near the Columbia River in Franklin County.

Hastings had questioned the agency about a peer review group it put together that rejected DNA research, funded by area farmers, that showed the bladderpod is genetically the same as other bladderpod species found in the Northwest.

He also wanted to know about a lack of notification Fish and Wildlife gave for an initial comment period on the listing of the bladderpod in 2012. The agency reopened the comment period after public outcry last year, but ultimately kept the listing in place.

Gavin Shire, a Fish and Wildlife spokesman in Washington, D.C., told the Herald in an email that the agency is working with the Natural Resources Committee to respond to Hastings’ requests.

Kent McMullen, chairman of a Franklin County committee that deals with natural resources issues, is skeptical that the subpoena will work, he said.

“I am hopeful that it provides substantive information, but, honestly, I doubt it,” McMullen said. “Because I see agencies throughout the federal government that feel they are outside the rule of law and we have an attorney general, Eric Holder, that refuses to enforce the law.”

Jail time for federal officials who refuse to comply with Congressional requests may be needed, McMullen said.

“If they refuse to comply with a Congressional subpoena, that would seem to be an actionable offense,” he said.

McMullen was among a group of Franklin County farmers who were concerned over the impact the bladderpod listing could have on land that Fish and Wildlife originally considered as part of the bladderpod’s critical habitat.

The agency initially proposed 315 acres of private land and 66 acres of state property as part of the critical habitat, but included only federal land after discussing the issue with landowners.

Farmers remain concerned that Fish and Wildlife could still impose a “buffer zone” or other regulations that would impact their land in the future, McMullen said. His committee, which reports to county commissioners, has considered recommending legal action against the agency, but wants to see what it does in the future.

“At this point we’re just weighing our options,” he said.

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