NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Whooo in Government Falsified Owl Data?

March 14, 2002

Hot on the heels of the scandal involving the falsification of government "scientific" reports on lynx populations in the Northwest comes evidence that U.S. Forest Service officials knowingly used false data on spotted owl habitats to block logging in a California forest. The revelation comes from court documents obtained by the Washington Times.

  • The agency did not have a "rational basis" for halting a timber sale, according to the previously undisclosed ruling of Federal Claims Court Judge Lawrence S. Margolis, who called the action "arbitrary" and "capricious."
  • This revelation of junk science follows other questionable actions taken by federal officials in the name of protecting endangered species.
  • In addition to false samples in the lynx survey and falsified data on spotted owl habitats, faulty information was uncovered in a study of endangered fish species -- and used as justification to deny water to farmers in several states.
  • The federal government has already had to pay out $15 million to more than 30 lumber companies in compensation for falsifying spotted owl data, which led to canceled timber sales.

In addition, the federal government agreed last week to pay one company another $9.5 million for canceling four sales -- a cancellation the judge found to be "arbitrary, capricious and without rational basis."

He also found that the officials knew their findings were faulty at the time they ordered the sales canceled.

One so-called spotted owl expert, Gerry Verner, testified that after driving through vast swaths of forests, it was his "gestalt notion" that there were spotted owls around -- although he never saw any.

Source: Audrey Hudson, "Owl Data Knowingly Faulty," Washington Times, March 14, 2002.


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