- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2002

Another case of "biofraud" has surfaced in Washington state, prompting lawmakers there to call for congressional intervention.
A state fish and wildlife biologist asked taxidermist Jim Gintz for grizzly bear hair samples in March 2001, said state Rep. Bob Sump, Republican co-chairman of the Natural Resources Committee.
If such a sample had been given, it could have tainted a grizzly habitat study in Washington that encompasses 3,600 square miles and, as a result, affected recreation, timber, mining, road construction and other human activities.
The Washington Times reported last month that seven federal and state employees were caught submitting false samples of another threatened species in the state, the Canadian lynx.
When the taxidermist read that officials used the hair of captive lynx and pelts to fix the sample, he alerted Mr. Sump that additional fraud may be occurring.
"Unfortunately, the lynx biofraud is not an isolated event but an egregious example of a serious malady that has infected environmental regulatory agencies," said Rob Gordon, director of the National Wilderness Institute.
Mr. Sump and state Rep. Jim Buck, both Republicans, are concerned that planting evidence of endangered and threatened species is even more widespread.
"It was our hope that the problems with the lynx study were an isolated incident," Mr. Sump said in a letter to Rep. Richard W. Pombo, California Republican and chairman of the Western Caucus.
"Unfortunately, the publicity from that incident is causing citizens with knowledge of similar improprieties to come forward. These incidents should also be investigated," Mr. Sump said.
"I think it has to be done at the congressional level to put the issue to rest. Anything less will always be viewed with suspicion," Mr. Buck added.
The grizzly is currently listed as a threatened species, but environmental activists are pushing for endangered status.
Mr. Pombo said he has "long suspected" that studies involving endangered species are "faulty." Congress and the General Accounting Office should determine if these incidents are isolated and if the employees should be fired, he said.
"Environmental activism that encourages unethical and mischievous behavior must not be tolerated," Mr. Pombo said.
The state fish and wildlife biologist told Mr. Gintz the grizzly bear hair samples would be used in a blind or control sample for laboratory analysis, but Mr. Gintz refused to cooperate. Mr. Gintz was preparing a grizzly bear rug for a local citizen. The bear was shot on a legal hunt in Alaska.
"I checked with my sources in Washington, D.C., and found that while blind samples are permitted in the grizzly bear study protocol, they may only be submitted from areas where grizzlies have been reintroduced and then only with the approval of the person in charge of the study," Mr. Sump said.
"One can only wonder why the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife must rely on covertly obtained blind samples of grizzly bear fur when it could get an official sample from virtually any state or provincial wildlife office with a simple phone call," Mr. Sump said.
Scientists involved in the survey said they did not intend for the falsified samples to be included in their study, but were testing the laboratory's ability to identify the cats.
The lynx biofraud has prompted a General Accounting Office audit, inspector general investigations in the Interior and Agriculture Departments, and House and Senate hearings. The state lawmakers want the lynx investigation expanded to include the grizzly study, and key House Republicans signaled the scope will be widened.
"If this incident proves true, we absolutely have to go back and revisit any federal study of endangered and threatened species that biologists from the Washington Division of Fish and Wildlife participated in," said Rep. James V. Hansen, Utah Republican and chairman of the House Resources Committee.
"If we get this wrong if we shut down access to thousands of acres of public land because of endangered species that turn out to not even be there we not only take away people's enjoyment of these lands, but we wipe out countless jobs that relied on access to that land. We affect recreation, tourism, farming, ranching, logging and more. We put people out of work," Mr. Hansen said.
Ed Owens, a natural resources consultant, said the larger question is whether science is being manipulated to match public policy.
"The grizzly and lynx issues are not directly related but indirectly involve the future use of millions of acres of land," he said.

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