- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Hairs from a grizzly bear rug were sought legitimately as part of a control sample study of the rare creatures along the Canadian border, officials leading the survey said.

Federal and state biologists have admitted to submitting falsified samples of lynx hair in a separate study, creating an increased scrutiny of many surveys involving endangered species.

When Washington state lawmakers learned a local taxidermist was asked for grizzly hair samples for a survey conducted last year, they demanded an investigation.

However, Boise Cascade, a major paper producer, cooperated in the survey of grizzly bears conducted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and said it was not compromised by false samples.

"We were aware there were control samples to be obtained and used, and the person involved also notified me ahead of time they were going to be submitting known grizzly hair samples," said Steve Tveit, timberlands manager for the Washington region of Boise Cascade.

"There was a protocol in place, and that's where this situation differs from what happened in the lynx case," Mr. Tveit said.

Government scientists, as first reported by The Washington Times, falsified samples of the rare lynx cat as coming from three national forests: the Gifford Pinchot, the Wenatchee and the Mount Baker/Snoqualmie.

The scientists said they submitted the false samples to test laboratory accuracy, despite an established protocol for lab testing by other federal officials.

Congressional leaders and some Bush administration officials were skeptical and believed the intention was to block use and development of public land. The planting of false lynx samples has sparked investigations by the Agriculture Department and Interior Department inspectors general, an audit by the General Accounting Office, as well as congressional hearings beginning Feb. 28 in a House subcommittee.

The Washington state taxidermist refused to turn over the grizzly hair sample for the survey; however, another control sample was obtained from a pelt owned by a local hunter.

More than 100 samples were submitted during the study but none tested positive for grizzly on the timber company's land, according to a report from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"Since we were a part of the study and the outcome showed no grizzly hairs were found, we are very comfortable with the study," Mr. Tveit said.

But Republican state Rep. Bob Sump, who asked that the grizzly hair situation be investigated along with the lynx incident, said he was not convinced the grizzly hair samples were sought for a control sample.

Mr. Sump said he asked state officials if the lynx study was the only instance in which false samples were submitted.

"I was told this was an isolated incident. Now we are finding this is something they did with another test," Mr. Sump said.

"This is not an isolated incident and there is a discrepancy. Their story just doesn't wash; it's spin," he said.

The falsified lynx samples were gathered from cats belonging to an animal park, a pelt and an escaped pet lynx held by federal officials. Mr. Sump said the larger question is why biologists are gathering samples nefariously.

A joint hearing of the Washington House and Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Parks and Shoreline will be held today to examine the lynx and grizzly hair-gathering incidents. In addition to the state agency, representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service have been invited to speak.

"I know it's a foreign word in politics, but I would like to find out the truth," said Mr. Sump, the House ranking committee member.

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