Washington, DC — According to one of its own scientists, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is knowingly using flawed science in assessing the habitat and population of the endangered Florida panther. Studies relied upon by FWS to make decisions about proposed development in Southwest Florida inflate panther population and inaccurately minimize habitat needs, according to a legal complaint filed jointly today by that scientist and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Andrew Eller, Jr., a 17-year USFWS biologist, has spent the past ten years working in the Florida panther recovery program. “I could no longer tolerate the scientific charade where agency officials pretended that the Florida panther was not in jeopardy,” stated Eller in filing the complaint. “The conservation implications of these problems are that future generations will see the Florida panther only on personalized license plates.”
The principal problems cited by the complaint include —
- Equating daytime habitat use patterns (when the panther is at rest) with nighttime habitat use patterns (when the panther is most active);
- Assuming that all known panthers are breeding adults, discounting juvenile, aged and ill animals; and
- Using population estimates, reproductive rates, and kitten survival rates not supported by field data.
“These scientific problems have been known for years by the Fish and Wildlife Service but to correct them would require that the Service actually object to mega-developments planned in the Western Everglades,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “The Fish and Wildlife Service is under severe pressure from its political superiors to commit scientific fraud to avoid inconveniencing campaign contributors.”
The Florida panther complaint is filed under the Data Quality Act which requires each federal agency to ensure and maximize “the quality, objectivity and integrity of information” it disseminates to the public and uses to in its decision-making. FWS now has 60 days to decide whether to accept or contest the Florida panther complaint.