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Washington, DC — A new U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service policy forbidding
its biologists from using wildlife genetics to protect and aid recovery of endangered
and threatened species has set off a firestorm of criticism both inside and
outside the agency. The January 27, 2005 policy issued by the Southwest Regional
Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Dale Hall, prohibits agency
biologists from considering unique genetic lineages in protecting or recovering
wildlife in danger of extinction.

In a March 11, 2005 letter, Ralph Morgenweck, the FWS Mountain-Prairie Regional
Director, wrote to Hall sharply rebuking the policy for contradicting the purposes
of the Endangered Species Act and running counter to best available science,

“I have concerns that the policy could run counter to the purpose of
the Endangered Species Act to recover the ecosystems upon which endangered and
threatened species depend. It also may contradict our direction to use the best
available science in endangered species decisions in some cases.”

In his letter, Morgenweck cites several examples where genetic diversity has
been critical to species’ survival because it allows wildlife to adapt
to emerging threats, diseases and changing conditions.

“Hall’s policy is a clear attempt to irresponsibly rollback endangered
species protections by hamstringing agency scientists,” stated John Horning
of Forest Guardians. “Hall is trying to destroy the vital safety net the
Endangered Species Act provides for native wildlife and fish on the brink of

By prohibiting consideration of individual or unique populations, Hall’s
policy will allow FWS to declare wildlife species secure based on the status
of any single population. This would allow the agency to pronounce species recovered
even if a majority of populations were on the brink of extinction, or allow
the agency to approve development projects that extirpate individual populations.

“If Dale Hall were in charge of the Fish and Wildlife Service, species
would be considered secure and recovered even if the only surviving members
were found in zoos,” stated Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with
the Center for Biological Diversity. “Hall’s policy is a departure
from good science and undermines key protections for the nation’s wildlife.”

In recent months, FWS has come under increasing criticism for allowing its scientific
conclusions to be altered for political reasons. A recent survey of FWS employees
by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility found that more than in any other region, agency biologists in
the Southwest have been subjected to political interference, with nearly half
of the respondents working under Hall reporting being “directed, for non-scientific
reasons to refrain from making” findings protective of wildlife.

“Dale Hall’s ban on using genetic factors is yet another attempt
to politically short-circuit science to achieve pre-determined, pro-development
results,” said PEER Program Director Rebecca Roose, noting that Hall’s
policy would directly affect several recovery plans now under development in
the Southwest. “Telling biologists not to consider genetic factors is
like telling engineers they cannot use mathematics.”


the Southwest FWS “Policy on Genetics in Endangered Species Activities”

Ralph Morgenweck’s concerns about the FWS policy

at Southwest wildlife most affected by the new Hall policy

results of FWS biologist survey on political manipulation of science, broken
down by region

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