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The Infamous Canada Lynx Study

Some of you will remember about two months ago allegations were made and widely published that a number of Forest Service biologists in the Pacific Northwest were attempting to distort the ongoing national survey of lynx presence on National Forest lands. Anti-environmental types were jostling for the headlines to criticize the study, the Endangered Species Act and slamming biologists for how far they will go to protect wildlife. Congressman Hansen was among the loudest and even the Chief of the Forest Service exhibited anger, sent a memo to all employees, warning them that if the Forest Service is to be a science-based organization this kind of activity can't be tolerated and removed the seven biologists from the study.

Typically, only half the story was told and only half was reported. In the January 10 issue of Nature, the world's preeminent scientific journal, the whole story is told, along with an editorial by Nature stating plainly that these biologists have "been unfairly pilloried" and that a "lynch mob" mentality has developed and is "undeserved."

What happened was that in three separate instances biologists, with the approval of their immediate superiors, sent to the laboratory captive lynx hair to see if the laboratory could identify samples from the species; there were concerns over whether the laboratory was adequate and that there was no blind control established. Some reports went so far as to say the scientists had planted lynx fur in the forest. That was not the case! There was no biofraud, as some have alleged, and the biologists were, in fact, using common scientific control to test results. Many of the biologists had expressed concerns over the study protocol.

Indeed, if the Forest Service is to be a scientific-based organization, it had better start to act like it. We have yet to see it!

Dick Carter


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