Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pearce Statement on Inspector General’s Report on Alleged Misconduct in Managing Wolf Program

Jul 12, 2016
Credit Rep. Steve Pearce (R) New Mexico
Commentary:  Congressman Pearce issued the following statement after the Inspector General (IG) released a detailed report substantiating numerous allegations made by Catron County regarding potentially illegal actions by the Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) management of the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery program.

The IG report confirms allegations of falsifications by FWS employees and their failure to properly manage the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program.

For example, the IG Report shows:

(1)    Falsified case of wolf bite (p.15-16);
(2)    Falsified location of multiple wolf kills (P. 11);
(3)    Lied in press release about wolf bite (p. 15-16);
(4)    Failed to communicate with the public and county officials (p. 7-8);
(5)    Failed to properly manage IFT team (p. 8);
(6)    Manipulated scientific data (p.5); and,
(7)    Sought to manipulate USDA investigator to falsify findings about wolf kills (p. 11).

“This IG report is damning; the FWS has blatantly disregarded the law and requirements for this program.  At this point, they must make changes.  They claim they have fixed the problem by reassigning one person.  Their problems are much bigger than one employee and extend to the highest levels of the Agency.  Merely reassigning one person in an Agency does not fix the larger issue that has existed for years.  Those at the top levels at FWS tolerated a culture of lies, falsification, mismanagement, and manipulation of scientific data, ultimately at the cost of livelihoods and the public trust. This mismanagement has caused economic harm to the state, county, and individuals. This is unacceptable and my office will not be silent.

“Right now, people feel like they cannot trust the federal government and this IG report substantiates that feeling.  It is clear from the IG report that the local community in Catron County feels lied to and does not trust the FWS to properly manage the wolf program.  It is my responsibility to be a voice for all citizens, especially at times when they feel abused, disadvantaged, or harmed by the bureaucracy,” said Congressman Pearce. 
Background of IG Report:
(1)    Falsification by FWS:
-          Falsified wolf bite (p. 15-16): A volunteer injured her hand while removing a wolf from a trap, the FWS issued a press statement detailing the wolf had merely “scratched” the volunteer.  However, when pressed further, the volunteer admitted the wolf “nipped” her.
-          Falsified location of wolf kill (p. 9): A rancher videotaped a pack of wolves eating an elk carcass near the back door of the rancher’s home.  Later, the Interagency Field Team (IFT) reported the wolf pack at an alternate location – essentially moving the kill site away from the rancher’s home and onto public land.
-          Attempt to falsify reports over a dozen times: (p.11) The former IFT program director attempted for over thirty minutes to try and get the USDA-WS investigator to falsify a report regarding a wolf kill and made similar attempts on “a dozen other occasions”.
-          Falsified wolf attributed to a kill (p. 11): There are also allegations the former IFT coordinator assigned a cattle kill to a wolf that was more than “15 miles away from a kill site,” to protect a wolf she viewed as more valuable.
(2)    Lies:
-          FWS lied in Press Release about wolf biting volunteer - (p. 15-16) – When County officials pressed further, the story changed to the “wolf’s tooth had contacted volunteer’s thumb”.
-          Employee lying directly to IG – (P. 5) The former IFT coordinator initially claimed not to show “preferential treatment” toward genetically valuable wolves and later in the interview acknowledged she did treat them differently.
-          Lied about wolf not being a “nuisance”– (P. 3) – Former IFT coordinator released a wolf that later had to be re-captured by FWS because of a danger to people. Initially the IFT coordinator claimed the wolf had no nuisance history, however when questioned whether the wolf had a nuisance history (documented or not) she did not answer.
(3)    Mismanagement:
-          Incompetent to head IFT Team (p. 8) – A team member states to the IG that the former IFT Coordinator was unprepared to assume the coordinator role.
o   Failure to accurately identify correct wolf breed (p.8) – Did not know the differences between the Alaskan Wolf and the Mexican Gray Wolf.
-          Poor communication with public (p.8) – The IG report claims the former IFT coordinator had undermined public trust and had a volatile personality.
o   Never met with County Employees – (P. 7-8) Former IFT coordinator acknowledged that she never met with County employees.
(4)    Manipulation of Scientific Data
-          Admitted to manipulating data (p.5) – Former IFT coordinator initially denied consciously manipulating data in favor of wolves that had a genetic value, she admitted later in the interview she treated those wolves “differently” from other wolves.
-          Refused to fill out required reports –(p. 3-4) Often a practice of not compiling required reports.
-          Encouraged other federal employees not to fill out nuisance forms  - (P. 4) – The former IFT coordinator did not require team members to complete nuisance forms because she did not believe “they were necessary.”
-          Did not document nuisance complaints – (p. 4) Even though the nuisance information would significantly affect science and management decisions.