- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2001

While biologists have been searching for missing links for decades, a few of them recently took the idea a bit too literally. As first reported by Audrey Hudson of The Washington Times, a group of government scientists planted samples of Canadian lynx hair on rubbing posts in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Wenatchee National Forest, both in Washington state. The posts were part of a survey ordered by the Clinton administration, which determined that the species was threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The fraud was found when DNA testing revealed that the lynx were hardly missing one sample matched an escaped pet being held in a federal office, the other two matched a lynx living in an animal preserve. Astonishingly, those caught red or at least furry handed claimed that they planted the hair to test the lab's ability to identify the cat. However, feral motives are more likely in this case of a Piltdown man with furballs. The findings of additional missing lynx could have resulted in severe restrictions on recreation and natural resources utilization in those areas. Roads would have been closed, tree thinning and livestock grazing would have been outlawed, snowmobilers, and even skiers and snowshoers would have been banned. As the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, Idaho Sen. Larry Craig suggested, "If they [the frauds perpetrators] hadn't been caught, you might have seen entire forests shut down on a false premise."

Since the surveys for the missing lynx affect 16 states and 57 national forests, such shutdowns would have created hairy situations for numerous citizens who depend on public lands for sustenance. Chairman of the House Resources committee Rep. James Hansen of Utah, claimed, "This hoax, if it hadn't been discovered, could have wrecked some people's way of life." He has joined Colorado's Rep. Scott McInnis, chairman of the forest and forest health subcommittee, in calling for congressional hearings into the matter.

Other Piltdown-man sized frauds are almost certainly waiting to be uncovered by those willing to dig deeply into the matter. James M. Beers, a retired fish and wildlife biologist told Mrs. Hudson, "I'm convinced that there is a lot of that [false sampling] going on for so-called higher purposes." He didn't have to look far for evidence. In 1999, a scientist submitted samples of lynx hair supposedly taken from the Oregon Cascades, much further south than the species was supposed to range. The evidence was eventually thrown out, since subsequent studies revealed no trace of what became yet another missing lynx. Unfortunately, such scientific devolution will probably persist as long as radical environmentalists and rogue biologists can influence natural resources policy by planting evidence. Reasonable people must stay alert for such frauds and missing links.

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