Waring: If the truth hurts you then please move on and don't read this....
March 7, 2002
GAO: Lynx fur hoax was no secret
By Audrey Hudson THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The General Accounting Office reported yesterday that government
knew they should not have submitted falsely labled samples into a national
lynx survey and that some supervisors were aware but took no action.
"They all admitted they knew it wasn't in the protocol, they weren't
allowed to do this," said Ronald Malfi, acting managing director of the
office of special investigations.
The investigation also found Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service
biologists discussed what they were doing, contrary to an initial
investigation in which employees said the unauthorized samples were
submitted without knowledge of each other's actions, Mr. Malfi said.
Additionally, employees from both agencies worked together to collect fur
samples from captive lynx, a species listed as threatened under the
Endangered Species Act, Mr.
The employees were orally reprimanded for the actions, but later received
bonuses for their work. Dr. Steven A.
Williams, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) director, said he is considering
further disciplinary action.
The names of the four federal biologists involved were released yesterday:
Ray Scharpf, the whistleblower who informed his supervisor of the
unauthorized submission before retiring from the Forest Service; Mitch
Wainright at the Forest Service; and Sarah LaMarr and Tim McCracken at the
The biologists maintain they submitted three samples of lynx fur they
falsely labeled as having been collected in two Washington state national
forests to test the lab's ability to analyze lynx DNA.
"They all knew they had no authorization to do this nor did they have a
technical order to actually test the laboratory,"
Mr. Malfi said.
Some scientists could not explain why they sent in the samples and were
"very guarded" in their comments, Mr.
Additionally, a Washington state employee submitted a fur sample into the
survey taken from a bobcat pelt, Mr. Malfi said.
Neither the GAO investigation nor a separate review by the Interior
Department's inspector general has shed light on the motivation of the
"We did not uncover what the motivation was, we just looked at the facts
and evidence to see what happened," Mr.
This angered some lawmakers, who said they remain convinced it was an
attempt to rig the study to restrict recreational activities on public
"The employees thought the lynx were out there and they may have hoped to
expand or extend the study to find more lynx or plant more samples," said
Rep. Scott McInnis, Colorado Republican and chairman of the Resources
Committee subcommittee on forests and forest health.
If the biologists were testing the lab, "it shows a fundamental mistrust
that these scientists have for the very science they are using. This is
very, very troubling," said Rep.
James V. Hansen, Utah Republican and committee chairman.
When asked by a committee member why the supervisors did not take action
stop the false sample submission, Mr.
McInnis said "they did take action; they gave them bonuses."
Mark Rey, Agriculture Department undersecretary for natural resources and
environment, said a third investigation by his department is looking
specifically at the employees' motivation - a question that remains
"sufficiently murky," he said.
Mr. Rey, who kept his remarks brief "so as not to unnecessarily delay the
expected horsewhipping," said "we don't think this is a harmless error."
However, Mr. Rey said he did not believe the employees were maliciously
trying to affect the survey's outcome but added that "it is not their
responsibility to make it up as they go along."
Mr. Rey said he did not believe the actions are a widespread problem in
the Forest Service, but is a "widely held preception about the agency and
we are most interested in changing that."
The samples were submitted as part of a three-year survey to determine
Canadian lynx habitat in 16 states and 57 national forests.
Mr. Malfi said had the false samples not been uncovered, "it would have
been part of the national survey," leading to additional surveys and
studies, but the "integrity of the study is intact."
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The Justice Department has declined to charge the individuals with a criminal act or conspiracy, but the USFWS Inspector has charged them with exercising poor judgement. Int. Sec. Gale Norton has directed the USFWS to look into punitive actions that may be taken or reprimands that could be made as well as the appropriateness of the bonuses they were given. (Source: North American Hunting Club website.)
Isn't this just another case of a bunch of biologists thinking they are smarter than everyone? They probably figured they knew more than the scientists at the lab.....little did they know.