But the government sticks by its firing of the whistleblower in the panther
The Associated Press
March 22, 2005
The U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service on Monday admitted using flawed scientific data on the Florida
panther to approve construction projects in panther habitat, conceding the
merits of a complaint by a whistleblower who was fired last year.
agency announced it would revise documents that understated the panther's
habitat and painted an over-optimistic picture of its prospects, after an
internal review found these documents included errors and discredited science.
But the agency said it had already been moving to correct these mistakes before
the complaint was filed.
"The law requires us to use the best science
available, and information available to us continuously evolves," said Sam
Hamilton, the agency's southeastern regional director, in a statement. "As we
learn more about panther ecology, we improve the body of knowledge."
review came after an agency biologist, Andrew Eller, filed a petition last May
under the federal Data Quality Act accusing the agency of knowingly using flawed
data to rubber-stamp eight construction projects in panther
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonprofit
group that represents government workers, including Eller, said the announcement
didn't go far enough.
"While we are gratified by this decision, we are
mystified why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service insists on firing the biologist
who risked his career to expose this scientific fraud," wrote the group's
executive director, Jeff Ruch.
Since he was fired last November, Eller
has become a hero to environmentalists who saw him as a symbol of scientific
integrity in an administration that twisted the facts to suit its ideology. He
received an ovation at the January meeting of the Everglades
But Fish and Wildlife Service officials said Eller was fired
for completing work late and engaging in unprofessional exchanges with the