Shuffle Off to Buffalo

From Holden:

With all the corruption in Gayle Norton’s Department of the Interior a canned buffalo hunt on a billionaire’s ranch (as well as more than $3,000 in taxidermy services) provided to an Interior Department official on the heels of a Department decision that benefitted the ranch owner seems like small potatoes.

A senior Interior Department official was awarded his own buffalo to hunt on a billionaire’s ranch a month before his office designated Houston as a port for exotic wildlife, a move that benefited the ranch owner.

The involvement of the official, David Smith, “was inappropriate and violated the appearance standard,” the department’s inspector general said in the undated report, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by U.S. News & World Report.

No disciplinary action was taken against Smith, who resigned last week to begin a law firm.

Smith, who joined the department in 2001, was deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks when he killed the buffalo at a 5,000-acre ranch owned by Texas billionaire Dan Duncan. The hunt took placein December 2004.


Smith said the aging buffalo he shot had torn up some ranch equipment, rammed vehicles and terrified ranch hands. He said he drove to within 100 yards of the buffalo — the official symbol of the Interior Department — and shot it.

A department spokesman declined to comment Wednesday, saying it was a personnel matter. Smith said he had submitted his resignation letter in mid-June.

The port designation can save big-time hunters and other noncommercial importers time and about $200 in fees for each shipment of exotic animals and trophies.


After the department’s internal watchdog began investigating, Smith reimbursed the ranch $3,170.54 for the buffalo’s shoulder mount, skull and tanned hide and for 20 pounds of meat. He also had the animal’s hooves made into bookends.