Public employee group defends lynx biologists

spectr17

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Group growls over lynx flap

By Mike Soraghan, Denver Post Washington Bureau

Wednesday, January 16, 2002 - WASHINGTON - Rep. Scott McInnis and other Western lawmakers may have violated a federal law protecting civil servants when they called for the firing of federal biologists involved in a controversial lynx study, an environmental group says.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility says the biologists have been caught up in political efforts to undermine the Endangered Species Act.

"They're taking some misinformation and turning it into a campaign against public employees," said PEER's Eric Wingerter. "The reason they're doing it is to create a chilling effect on other scientists working on endangered-species issues."

McInnis, a Grand Junction Republican and chairman of the House forest subcommittee, was furious last month when he learned that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Forest Service biologists in Washington state had sent fake lynx samples to a lab as part of a survey to determine where lynx live in the West.

If the survey had determined that there were lynx, a threatened species, in the national forests, timber harvesting and winter sports might have been restricted in the area. But that would have required additional research. The survey is also being done in national forests in Colorado.

The revelation touched a nerve among conservative Western politicians, who feel that government agencies have been too restrictive in their management of public lands. But environmentalists say the Forest Service has been rejecting evidence of lynx so there won't be any restrictions.

McInnis was upset that the scientists' punishment was to be "counseled," the least severe measure. He and House Resources Chairman Jim Hansen, R-Utah, sent letters to Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who oversees Fish and Wildlife, and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, who oversees the Forest Service, saying the punishment should be harsher.

"We believe these individuals should be terminated immediately if their guilt is verifiable," their letter said.

PEER, which advocates for public employees in environmental agencies, says that kind of language violates the Hatch Act, a law intended to protect federal civil servants from political retaliation and restrict patronage. But it found that Hatch Act complaints cannot be made against a member of Congress except by another member of Congress.

So Tuesday, PEER wrote to Norton and Veneman, asking them to ignore the lawmakers' demands and return the lawmakers' letters, with notes saying that they were "prohibited communications."

Interior spokesman Mark Pfeifle said the department will not be returning the lawmakers' letters. He said it is PEER that's injecting politics into the process.

"The letter reads like it was written by political hacks whose idea of practicing law comes from watching Judge Judy reruns," Pfeifle said.
 

grizz

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If these biologist falseafided their findings to slant the outcome of the project.  They should be fired.  But we all know, once your a gov. employee it takes a act of congress to get fired.  :mad-red::gunfighter:
 

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