On October 24, 2018, the Department of Interior (DOI) sent a request to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) asking for permission to destroy documents from every agency within the Department of Interior. These agencies include the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and others. The National Whistleblower Center (NWC) says this request should be denied.
The National Whistleblower Center sent a letter to the NARA, on November 8, 2018, in which it urged for the denial of the DOI’s records destruction request. “Record-keeping is a crucial component of making sure that government agencies have to answer for their actions. If granted permission, the DOI may very well be able to destroy any reasonable chance to evaluate their work in the future,” said Stephen M. Kohn, NWC’s Executive Director. “Preserving these documents is key component to government oversight,” Kohn continued.
The NWC told that NARA that it is “troubled that the records destruction request includes: includes A) marine issues, including fishing and conservation, B) endangered species issues, and C) the timber trade. Note that all three of these topics are incorporated in laws which also include whistleblower protection and reward provisions, which motivate those with information to assist law enforcement agents in investigating, prosecuting, and punishing crime which would otherwise be unreported.”
“Preserving documents is vital when dealing with issues such as wildlife trafficking and conservation,” said Scott Hajost, Managing Director of the NWC’s Global Wildlife Program. “Endangered species and habitats do not have the option of a second chance. Once destroyed, such records are gone forever,” he added.