S. Fish and Wildlife Service Will Correct Panther Information In
Response to Information Quality Act Challenge
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has accepted the recommendation of a three-member panel of senior Interior Department officials that found the agency did not move quickly enough to correct some scientific information related to Florida panthers and disseminated some uncorrected documents.
At the same time, the panel made clear it believes “the Service played a major role in identifying these scientific concerns and supporting their investigation” by establishing a Florida Panther sub team of the Multi-Species Ecosystem Recovery Implementation Team, and by working with the State of Florida to convene a Scientific Review Team to address questions raised about some of the research.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Andy Eller, a Service employee, filed a petition under the Information Quality Act in May 2004. The Service responded in July 2004 and the petitioners appealed shortly thereafter. The agency released the response to that appeal today.
“The Service used panther information that had been scientifically peer reviewed, but we and others engaged in panther science and conservation identified significant limitations in its methodology and conclusions,” said Service Deputy Director Marshall Jones. “This is a common outcome of the scientific process. However, we should have moved more quickly to incorporate this evolving knowledge into some planning documents and biological opinions, an oversight that we regret and are working to correct.
“I am heartened by the panel’s finding that the Service itself played a major role in identifying concerns with this data, which is evidence of our continuing commitment to using the best scientific information,” Jones added.
“The Florida panther’s ecology is one that involves a number of complex and competing viewpoints,” said Sam Hamilton, regional director for the Service’s Southeast Region. “We have been working with the state and many scientists to constantly improve the science we use in panther conservation efforts.
“The law requires us to use the best science available, and information available to us continuously evolves,” Hamilton added. “As we learn more about panther ecology we improve the body of knowledge. We recognized many of the questions that have been raised, we established scientific review teams to address them, and we are working closely with the State of Florida on new analyses. All of this will improve the science we use to collectively benefit the Florida panther.”
The panel findings released by the Director included the following:
Jones said the Service will take the following corrective actions:
Over the past 25 years, panther numbers have roughly quadrupled
to nearly 90. Land acquisition has played an important role. In 1989,
the Service established the 26,000-acre Florida Panther National
Wildlife Refuge. In addition, the Service is continuing to work with
its partners to advance science and what biologists know about the
Florida panther to conserve its habitat and bolster its population.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 Fish and Wildlife Management offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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