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Outdoor Tales — Bio-fraud in Valley

April 04, 2002

If this fiasco over Peirson's milk vetch wasn't so serious it might be funny.

It looks like there's a whole bunch of environmentalists out there who don't want us to play in the sand.

A similar plant, Rydberg milk vetch, once listed as an endangered species, is officially termed recovered. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claims Rydberg milk vetch recovered due to the Endangered Species Act. But during a Senate hearing John Turner, former FWS director, revealed the species was delisted because they looked around and found more than 300,000 additional plants. Is this story starting to sound familiar?

My good friend Rich is the local guru for weeds. I asked him what Peirson's milk vetch was a few months ago. When he told me I had to chuckle and immediately recognized the plant when a photo of it appeared on the front page of Sunday's I.V. Press.

There are many different types of milk vetch and each one is slightly different and therefore named differently. Range managers and ranchers in the western United States know them all as "locoweed" and eradicate the weed whenever it is found on their rangeland.


I remember a few years ago during the Cattle Call Rodeo there was a major problem when the entire herd of horses used in the wild horse contest was poisoned by locoweed. The horses ingested the dangerous plant in a pasture near Julian.

I wonder how many horses and oxen perished from lack of food, water and an abundance of Peirson's milk vetch on their way through the sand dunes during the gold rush?

After eight years of "help" from the Clinton administration, where philosophy was deemed more important than hard science and key positions were filled by environmental activists, thousands of acres in the western United States have been closed to outdoor enthusiasts using the vaguely written Endangered Species Act.

The last few years have shown how powerful the environmental groups have become and how much power they hold over the different federal departments.

Recently multiple scandals have surfaced showing gross neglect from various government agencies.

The Fish and Wildlife Service's name seems to pop up more than any other. Late last year the FWS had its Web site shut down by a federal court order allegedly because it was being used for inappropriate business. When I tried to contact someone at the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge a few weeks ago my message was bounced back.

Last December seven employees from FWS, the U.S. Forest Service and a state agency were caught when they submitted hair samples from a captive Canadian lynx in an attempt to pass them off as wild Canada lynx hair.

Had the false samples slipped through the system, it's possible the lynx would have been listed as an endangered specie. Because the lynx had been spotted in 22 states, a federal listing would have taken millions of acres of land out of use.

Logging, resorts, skiing, road construction, hiking and trapping would have been halted or shut down at a cost that may have reached billions of dollars in lost revenues.

The infamous seven claim their submissions were a quality test of the lab; however, the ploy would never have come to light had it not been for a retiring employee who blew the whistle.

So far none of the scientists has been fired. Instead they were sent to counseling and assigned to different jobs. A congressional hearing is scheduled.

Jim Beers, a 31-year FWS employee, was forced out of his job because he had differed with his superiors over whether to approve a request for grant money for The Fund for Animals, and his involvement in the negotiation of an international agreement concerning humane trapping standards, according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

The Office of Special Counsel represented Beers against FWS for violations of federal personnel regulations and subsequently won a settlement for Beers of $150,000, restoration of payment for annual leave, payment of his attorney fees and a letter of apology from the Fish and Wildlife Service for its actions against him.

"I dedicated my professional career to wildlife conservation," Beers testified. "I am appalled at the way I see conservation funds being looted and used to fund government and private efforts to undercut hunting, fishing, trapping and the state agencies that manage them.

"Today's USFWS is fostering an agency-wide climate that promotes these diversions and abuses," he added.

In a recent scandal it was proven Forest Service officials knowingly used false data about spotted owls to block logging in a California forest. A federal judge ruled the agency's action was arbitrary, capricious and without rational basis. He said officials knew their data was faulty even as they ordered the sales of trees canceled.

As a result the government paid the logging company $9.5 million for the canceled sales.

Can our federal agencies be trusted to make fair or competent decisions about our nation's resources? One retired FWS employee was recently quoted as saying, "The only difference between the FWS and the Boy Scouts is that the Boy Scouts have adult supervision."

Outdoor Tales writer Al Kalin can be reached on the Internet at

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