Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Small victory …

Naples (FL) Daily News reports that U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service rehires biologist fired in '04:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reinstated a biologist the agency fired in 2004 after he filed a legal challenge over faulty science the agency was using to permit development in Florida panther habitat in Southwest Florida.

Biologist Andy Eller, a 17-year-veteran of the Fish and Wildlife Service, had appealed his dismissal, and a hearing was set to begin today.
Eller blew the whistle on manipulation of reports about Florida panther recovery and habitat.

In other news, Administration manipulated data on butterflies, scientist says:

A well-known scientist at the University of Florida on Thursday accused the Bush administration of misrepresenting his work in order to justify its decision not to put the Miami Blue butterfly on the endangered species list.

Once common throughout southern Florida, the butterfly was reduced to a single stronghold in the Keys before scientists last year began re-establishing it in parts of its old range.

In May the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it could not declare the Miami blue an endangered species, even though the butterfly met the criteria, because it lacked the staff and money to protect it. The Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit group based in Tucson, Ariz., on Thursday filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the service over the decision.

In announcing its decision, the wildlife service claimed that scientists had failed in their attempts to reintroduce the butterfly to its former range. Since releasing Miami blues at Biscayne and Everglades national parks, researchers detected only "an inconsistent or sporadic presence of only a small number of individuals," stated the agency's written evaluation, published May 11 in the Federal Register. "Monitoring results do not indicate that the Miami blue has become established at any of the release sites."

Thomas Emmel, professor of zoology and entomology at the University of Florida and director of the Miami blue reintroduction project, said this assessment was completely false.

"That's just plain Bush administration manipulation of the data," he said, after hearing the service's evaluation of his team's work. "That's just another example of how politics drives biological observations."

Emmel said his team has established 12 breeding colonies at Biscayne and Everglades national parks. These colonies have all successfully reproduced through several generations in the wild. The total number of butterflies in the colonies ranges from about 50 to 500, with numbers hitting the low end of the range when most of the butterflies are in their larval stage.
At least they can't fire him for blowing the whistle. The FWS claims there isn't enough money to list the species. This is a persistent problem, as I've reported before. Studies and recovery efforts for endangered species are so badly underfunded that no work can get done. Congress is going the wrong direction by trying to weaken critical habitat protections, they need to fund the science that goes into the designations, making the designation more focussed and effective.