McInnis names names as fur flies over lynx


By Bill McAllister
Denver Post Washington Bureau Chief

Sunday, March 17, 2002 - WASHINGTON - Shortly after the House Resources Committee held a spirited hearing March 6 into whether some biologists planted fake lynx fur in a Western forest, Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, walked on the House floor to disclose what investigators had been reluctant to announce in the hearing room.

A former police officer, McInnis named four of the seven workers involved in the case, expressing outrage over their actions. "They planted evidence, just like a bad cop goes into a house and plants drugs," he told the House.

It was no secret that McInnis was furious over what he calls the "Lynx Survey Seven," two state and five federal workers who he says should have been more severely punished; none was prosecuted.

McInnis named only the four - Ray Scharpf, Mitch Wainright, Sara LaMarr and Tim McCracken - because their actions were the most serious, McInnis' spokesman said.

At the hearing, McInnis had expressed bewilderment that a worker in the group had received a bonus and another had been awarded a pay raise.

Later on the floor, McInnis said it was a clear case of government workers who "knew what they were doing was wrong and outside their protocol, but they still carried out their actions," McInnis said. Congress, he said, will "install some firewalls that will prevent this type of scheme from happening again."

Not everyone who heard what McInnis did on the House floor, however, was applauding his statement last week. (McInnis is shielded from any question of having libeled the workers by making his statement on the floor.)

A spokeswoman for Democrats on the Resources Committee declined to comment, but Tom Franklin, wildlife policy director for the Wildlife Society and a witnesses at the hearing, said he was offended by McInnis' action.

"Yes, sir, I'm concerned that the names were released after everyone at the hearing was very careful to respect the privacy of the individuals," Franklin said. "I am concerned that such publicity at this point could unduly embarrass and/or affect the careers of innocent people."

Blain Rethmeier, a spokesman for McInnis, said the five-term Colorado lawmaker has no apology for naming the four.

"As a general proposition, Mr. McInnis believes the public has the right to know in the event that the implicated individuals are involved in similarly critical ESA (Endangered Species Act) assessments in the future. Given their unarguable predisposition to flout the rules of the game, Mr. McInnis is of the mind that their future work deserves some additional scrutiny by the public. This step ensures that."

McInnis' action illustrated how strongly he feels about an issue that has been a rallying point for Western conservatives and their angst over the Endangered Species Act. It is, McInnis said, not a question of whether the scientists should be used in determining whether a specific species is endangered, but whether those scientists have used good science.

In this case, the scientists sent fake Canada lynx hair to a lab as part of a survey to protect the animals' habitat. Whether their motives were, as some say, to test the laboratory they were using, or, as others suggest, to expand the lynx's range, a senior Agriculture Department official asked for more time to investigate before any conclusions are drawn.

A few minutes later, McInnis effectively said he didn't need any more time to draw conclusions about what went wrong.

Meanwhile, In another example of blunt talk, McInnis announced last week that he will offer legislation later this spring to create a "national fire czar or National Fire Council" if federal officials fail "to bring uniformity and consistency to federal wildland fire policy."

"The Feds have been put on notice - either establish an interagency national fire czar or council, or I will," McInnis said in a news release.


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