Grijalva Calls on Interior Secretary to Lift Gag Order on Fish and Wildlife Service’s Communications With Congress

Washington, D.C. – In the latest of a growing list of requests to improve communications with Congress, Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke urging him to reverse a recently discovered Department of the Interior (DOI) policy of blocking communication between Democratic Congressional staff and the Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs (OCLA) about hearings before the House Natural Resources Committee where administration witnesses are not testifying. As Grijalva writes, “Refusing to answer questions about the Interior Department’s laws and policies on the pretense that no administration witness will be present at a given hearing calls into question the office’s very reason for existing.”

DOI’s justification for the policy is unclear. Committee Democratic staff recently learned of the policy in the course of preparing for a hearing on the Endangered Species Act when OCLA personnel informed them they could not answer questions because no administration witness would be present. At that hearing, Republican Members and witnesses repeatedly misrepresented Fish and Wildlife Service policies and actions.

“Transparency is a core value of our democracy,” Grijalva writes in today’s letter, available at http://bit.ly/2obgidY. “This is the opposite of transparency. It speaks of a desire to limit the ability of Congress and the public to understand your Department’s position on issues of great public interest.”

Today’s letter follows a string of unanswered meeting invitations and requests for information from Grijalva to the Department. DOI has yet to acknowledge or respond to Grijalva’s weekly meeting requests with the Secretary. Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) has taken no action on Grijalva’s March 22 letter urging a hearing where Zinke can testify on implementing the Trump administration’s $1.5 billion budget cut at his Department.

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