Fish & Wildlife resignations

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1998:

WASHINGTON D.C.––U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service supervisor of Everglades
ecosystems Craig Johnson resigned in midDecember,
“after almost three years battling
for manatees, panthers, seaside sparrows,
and Key deer against higher-ups in his own
agency and other agencies supposed to be
protecting the environment,” Miami Herald
staff writer Cyril T. Zaneski reported on
December 23.
Johnson, 42, returned to a post
with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Born in Harlem, Johnson was
among the few identifiable members of racial
and ethnic minorities at high levels in the Fish
and Wildlife Service. Former Fish and
Wildlife Service special investigator Carroll
Cox charges in a pending lawsuit that racial
discrimination was involved in his 1994 dismissal,
after years of conflict with other Fish
and Wildlife Service staff over his efforts to
enforce the Endangered Species Act against
longline fishers, Chevron Oil, and Bishop
Estate, a major Hawaii landowner.


“I learned from the start that I had a
choice: to do right by the resource or make
people within the agency happy,” Johnson
told Zaneski. “I chose the resource.”
Within weeks of arriving in Florida
Johnson was in political trouble for trying to
slow down and reroute power boats to prevent
the collisions that after red tide are the leading
cause of Florida manatee deaths. Johnson left
six weeks after he and Bradley Hartman of the
Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish
Commission objected in a 12-page letter to
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that
Everglades restoration plans focus too much
on flood control and water supply for human
use, rather than ecosystem protection.
The level of political interference in
the Everglades restoration was illustrated on
November 25, when Senator Bob Graham
(D-FL) excluded activists and media from a
meeting at which, according to a December
17 Defenders of Wildlife communique,
Graham “lobbied against an environmental
study that would disclose impacts from a
planned commercial airport near Everglades
and Key Biscayne National Parks.”
Said Barbara Lange of Friends of
the Everglades, “The fact that six out of 30
people at the meeting leaked the study to the
press, despite being sworn to secrecy, shows
that even the insiders are outraged.”
ESA not enforced
Johnson left the Fish and Widlife
Service less than a month after zoologist
Ronald M. Nowak resigned on November 14.
“This agency is no longer adequately
supporting the function for which I was
hired, the classification and protection of
wildlife pursuant to the Endangered Species
Act,” Nowak told superiors, “and often
works against this function. I have become
particularly concerned about the agency’s
seemingly unrestrained use of public funds to
carry on litigation and other actions to thwart
or delay appropriate classification and regulation
of species, such as the lynx. It also
recently was unsettling to learn that the
agency is essentially supporting the destruction
of the wolf in Central Asia to justify permitting
American hunters to import trophies
of the threatened argali sheep, which itself
may contradict regulations. My efforts to mitigate
these problems have failed.”
Nowak asked the Fish and Wildlife
Service to remember him if ever “my services
might be useful to appropriately classify, protect,
or study the urial sheep, koala, wolf, or
any other foreign or native species,” as “I
would be glad to be of help to the extent that
circumstances may allow.”
Both Johnson and Nowak quit soon
after Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility published War of Attrition,
self-described as “an array of cases where the
listing recommendations of Fish and Wildlife
Service bioloigsts were reversed by the
Department of the Interior for nonbiological
reasons, in clear violation of law.” (Copies
are $5.00, from PEER, 2001 S St. NW,
Suite 570, Washington, DC 20009.)
Charged the PEER newsletter, Peer
R e v i e w, “Since the Republican takeover of
Congress (in 1994), the Department of the
Interior and Fish and Wildlife Service have
suspended enforcement of the Endangered
Species Act, systematically refusing to list
new species.”

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