[env-trinity] News Release Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Mon Jun 15 14:30:42 PDT 2009

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility News Release


For Immediate Release: June 15, 2009

Contact: Carol Goldberg (202) 265-7337


Wildlife Service Southeast Region Employees Saw Interference and Reprisal


Washington, DC - President Obama's nominee to lead the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service did not protect science from political interference or scientists
from retaliation, according to a survey of his employees conducted by Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Last week, the White
House announced its intent to nominate Sam Hamilton to head the Fish &
Wildlife Service (FWS), which has been the focus of intense criticism for
allowing political officials to improperly alter scientific findings. 


For the past dozen years, Sam Hamilton has overseen the 10-state FWS
Southeastern Region of the Fish & Wildlife Service, home to endangered
species ranging from the American crocodile to the Florida panther. In 2005,
PEER surveyed more than 1,400 FWS biologists, ecologists and botanists
working on Endangered Species Act and other wildlife protection programs
across the country. Those survey results for scientists working within
Hamilton's region found that -


Nearly half (49%) of FWS respondents cited cases where "commercial interests
have inappropriately induced the reversal or withdrawal of scientific
conclusions or decisions through political intervention"; A similar
percentage (46%) said they had been "directed, for non-scientific reasons,
to refrain from making . . . findings that are protective of species"; and
More than a third (36%) feared "retaliation" for merely expressing "concerns
about the biological needs of species and habitats" and a similar number
felt they were "not allowed to do my job as a scientist". 

"Where was Sam Hamilton when all this was going on?" asked PEER Executive
Director Jeff Ruch noting that Hamilton did not inquire or request any
investigation into widespread complaints by his staff. "Why would anyone
expect Mr. Hamilton to protect scientists when he previously has not?" 


A prime example illustrating this concern is the manipulation of science by
Hamilton's leadership team to green-light sprawl in shrinking panther
habitat. In 2005, the FWS Director under Bush, Steve Williams, rebuked
Hamilton's region for making false assumptions designed to inflate panther
numbers and viability, in response to a formal complaint by PEER and an FWS
panther biologist. Hamilton took no disciplinary action against any of his
managers and several of the scientific deficiencies persist today.


The White House announcement cited Hamilton's record for "delivering
significant wildlife conservation" but his employees reflect a less positive


More than two thirds (68%) did not feel the region was "acting effectively
to maintain or enhance species and their habitats, so as to avoid possible
listings under the Endangered Species Act" and Less than one in four (24%)
believed that Hamilton would "stand up for scientific staff or supervisors
who take controversial stands". 

One FWS supervisor succinctly summed up what Hamilton's operation needs this


"More backbone, less dog-and-pony show." 


In the PEER national survey, Hamilton's region ranked better than some and
worse than others on key issues. More than one in four (29%) of all FWS
ecological scientists participated in the survey.


"Hamilton's record as a senior official does not offer much to brag on,"
Ruch added. "We hope the Senate, particularly its Democratic members, look
carefully into this record and interview employees." 



Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land

415 519 4810 cell

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 




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