FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 20, 2001
CONTACT: Chris Matthews 202/224-8329 Joe Sheffo
Smith Calls for Senate Hearing on Forest Service "Missing Lynx" Hoax
Washington, DC - Today, Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) joined Senator Larry Craig
(R-ID) in requesting that Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) convene a hearing of the
Senate Resources Subcommittee on Forestry and Public Lands to investigate the
possibility of fraud perpetrated by U.S. Forest Service (USFS), U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service (USFWS), and Washington State Department of Natural Resources
The complete text of the senators' letter is available upon request.
This week several newspapers broke a story concerning questionable endangered
species surveys on the Wenatchee and Gifford Pinchot National Forests. It
appears several government biologists submitted tainted samples in a national
Lynx habitat survey.
A variety of groups have expressed serious concerns about how these surveys were
completed and the implications of knowingly submitting false data to a national
endangered species habitat survey. The agencies portray this event as an
innocent attempt to double check the genetics testing facility. If that is the
case, it remains unexplained why field biologists would have spread the tainted
sample on scratch pads out in the forest. Thus, many people in the public don't
believe the biologists' cover story.
"We believe we need to hold an oversight hearing to learn more about this event
and this issue. At a minimum we need to know what the Forest Service and U.S.
Fish & Wildlife Service have done to cross-test these tainted samples against
all other samples to ensure this was an isolated incident. Without such
testing, the entire three-year national lynx habitat survey will be considered
suspect," the senators wrote.
"We also need to better understand what the agencies have done to guarantee that
this type of behavior is neither implicitly nor explicitly sanctioned," Smith
and Craig wrote. "Surely our federal land management agencies have scientific
standards that are at least as rigorous as the professional societies involved."
"Finally, there are the questions of waste, fraud, and abuse that must be
addressed. If these federal employees did submit these tainted samples, as the
press reports, at a minimum they should be expected to repay the government for
the cost of the investigation and for the time spent collecting and analyzing
the bogus samples," the senators wrote. "Our system of endangered species
science is built on a foundation of sound, trustworthy, scientists. We can ill
afford rogue biologists testing the process every time they fail to get the
results expected, or hoped for."
"If nothing else, an oversight hearing will send the message that Congress will
not accept bogus, or shoddy, science when it comes to land management," Smith
and Craig added. "And that there is no room in our system for those who
manipulate habitat surveys, or science, to gain a politically driven result."