DENVER — The U.S. Forest Service announced Thursday that the Agriculture Department’s inspector general will join the investigation into federal biologists who planted lynx fur in two national forests.
Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth, saying he was "deeply concerned" by the biologists’ action, called for a broader investigation by the USDA inspector general. Interior Secretary Gale Norton called for the Interior Department’s inspector general to investigate on Wednesday.
During the 2000 sampling session, biologists planted three samples of lynx fur on rubbing posts in parts of the Wenatchee and Gifford Pinchot national forests in Washington state, areas not normally home to the lynx. Fur taken from the posts is used to indicate if the wildcats have been in the area.
The seven biologists — three from the Forest Service, two from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and two from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife — admitted they planted the samples, but said their intent was simply to test whether the lab could accurately identify the lynx fur.
None remain in the lynx survey program. Six were reassigned and one retired.
The Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service are tracking the rare Canadian lynx to determine how many there are and where they live. Data from the four-year survey will be used to determine how best to protect the lynx, which is classified as threatened.
Some proposed changes to protect the lynx include limiting the thinning of forests to improve the habitat for snowshoe hares, their main food, and to restrict snowmobiling and some other winter activities. But Hansen and McInnis want a review of all data collected through the program before any land management decisions are made.
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