Thanks Uncle Sam

James Kruse fnjjk1 at
Thu Jan 3 16:30:18 EST 2002

on 1/3/02 10:51 AM, butrfly at at butrfly at wrote:

This appeared in the Washington Times and made me think, Gee if we can't
trust our government then who can we trust. I am sure the USDA would never
pull a fast like this one on butterfly people. Just thought that you would
like to see your tax dollars at work behind your backs. If they did it with
the Lynx why not butterflies. R. Mikula

Scrutiny on lynx fraud grows

Dr. Mikula gave us the second article on this, here is the first. It is also
from the Washington Times and the same author. I think the story broke on 17
or 18 December, 2001. This first story gives more details about where the
work was being done.

Incidentally, I'm not sure I'd call a few errant Federal and State Wildlife
Biologists "Uncle Sam" or "our government", but surely as employees they
REPRESENT the U.S. Government.

I am happy they were caught, but the news itself did not surprise me.

Rare lynx hairs found in forests exposed as hoax


     Federal and state wildlife biologists planted false evidence of a rare
cat species in two national forests, officials told The Washington Times.

     Had the deception not been discovered, the government likely would have
banned many forms of recreation and use of natural resources in the Gifford
Pinchot National Forest and Wenatchee National Forest in Washington state.

     The previously unreported Forest Service investigation found that the
science of the habitat study had been skewed by seven government officials:
three Forest Service employees, two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials
and two employees of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

     The officials planted three separate samples of Canadian lynx hair on
rubbing posts used to identify existence of the creatures in the two
national forests. DNA testing of two of the samples matched that of a lynx
living inside an animal preserve. The third DNA sample matched that of an
escaped pet lynx being held in a federal office until its owner retrieved
it, federal officials said.

     After the falsified samples were exposed by a Forest Service colleague,
the employees said they were not trying to manipulate or expand the lynx
habitat, but instead were testing the lab's ability to identify the cat
species through DNA analysis, said Joel Holtrop, a Forest Service official.

     "Even if that is the case, it was inappropriate," Mr. Holtrop said.

     Forestry officials, conservationists and retired federal officials said
they were outraged that the data were tampered with and said they are
skeptical it was an attempt to test the lab.

     "I would find the evil-twin argument more plausible," said Rob Gordon,
executive director of the National Wilderness Institute. "That would be like
bank robbers taking money from a bank and saying they were just testing the
security of a bank, they weren't really stealing the money. That's
beautiful, but I don't think it will fly," Mr. Gordon said.

     Retired Fish and Wildlife Service biologist James M. Beers called the
false sampling amazing but not surprising. "I'm convinced that there is a
lot of that going on for so-called higher purposes," Mr. Beers said.

     The employees have been counseled for their actions and banned from
participating in the three-year survey of the lynx, listed as a threatened
animal under the Endangered Species Act. Federal officials would not name
the offending employees, citing privacy concerns.

     The lynx listing and habitat study began in 1999 during the Clinton
administration and concludes this year. It was criticized by Westerners as a
political move to impose restrictions on public lands.

     Radical environmental groups felt the restrictions didn't go far
enough. To protect the habitat of the felines, roads would have to be closed
to vehicles, and off-road vehicles, snowmobiles, skis and snowshoes would
have been banned. Livestock grazing and tree thinning also would have been

     "It was rigged from the word go; it was full of bad biology and bad
politics," Mr. Beers said. "It gave them [the federal government] carte
blanche to go after ski resorts, stop road building and go after ranchers
and tree cutters."

     When the Vail Ski Resort announced an expansion of trails into possible
lynx habitat, the radical animal-rights group Earth Liberation Front (ELF)
torched five buildings and four ski lifts in protest. The Oct. 18, 1998,
fire caused $12 million in damage and was the largest act of eco-terrorism
in the United States. No arrests were made, and the statute of limitations
expired in October.

     This past summer, ELF planted spikes in hundreds of trees to sabotage a
timber sale and protect the lynx and spotted owls in the Gifford Pinchot
National Forest ‹ one of the forests where the false samples were planted.

     This isn't the first time forestry officials have encountered
questionable studies to identify the presence of lynx in the Northwest.

     In 1999, a scientist hired by the federal government submitted lynx
hair samples supposedly found in the Oregon Cascades, farther south than
where the animals were thought to exist, said Chris West, spokesman for the
American Forest Resource Council.

     Federal officials spent thousands of hours and tens of thousands of
dollars trying to duplicate the finding but found no evidence of the

     The hairs were never validated, the samples were thrown out, and the
contractor was never paid, Mr. West said.

     "These are cases of rogue biologists trying to influence
natural-resources policy," Mr. West said. "There has clearly been some
shenanigans going on here," he said of the false sampling in Washington.

     Forest Service officials say this year's errant sampling was caught and
therefore did not affect the integrity of the sample survey.      "We have
looked at it carefully and feel the overall integrity of the sampling effort
is in place, and the ongoing results will have valid scientific and sound
results," said Heidi Valetkevitch, Forest Service spokeswoman.

     However, the incident has damaged the integrity of the federal agencies
within their own ranks and in the communities they serve.      "It destroys
the credibility of the hard work we are trying to do to track these
animals," said one retired Forest Service employee.

     Mr. Gordon said the false sampling aggravates an already distrustful
relationship between Westerners and the federal government. "This revelation
makes all the projects these offices and individuals were involved in
suspect, and may merit review," Mr. Gordon said.

James J. Kruse, Ph.D.
Curator of Entomology
University of Alaska Museum
907 Yukon Drive 
Fairbanks, AK, USA 99775-6960
tel 907.474.5579 
fax 907.474.1987

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