Florida panther biologist fired

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2004:

VERO BEACH, Fla.–The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on
November 5, 2004 fired Florida panther biologist Andrew Eller Jr.,
an 18-year employee, two weeks after postponing the scheduled
adoption of a panther habitat protection plan completed in 2002 by a
team of 11 panther experts.
“The agency decided to hold off on adopting the so-called
panther strategy so that it can hire an outside contractor to review
controversial science on which it may have been based,” wrote Pamela
Smith Hayford of the Fort Myers News-Press.
In May 2004 Eller filed an Information Quality Act complaint
“accusing his own agency of knowingly using bad data on panther
habitat, reproduction, and survival to approve eight construction
projects,” reported Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel staff writer David
On July 31 Eller told media that he had been warned he would
be fired within 30 days.

“Eller claimed some vindication on August 20,” Fleshler
continued, “when U.S. District Judge James Robertson revoked a
permit for a rock mine in panther habitat. Eller, who reviewed the
mine proposal, said his supervisors had refused to let him issue a
biological opinion stating that the mine would put the panther in
The Florida Rock Industries permit application was supported
by University of Kentucky biologist and reputed Florida panther
expert Dave Maehr, who apparently also influenced the panther
habitat plan.
A peer review of Maehr’s work commissioned by the Florida
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Fish & Wildlife
Service recently found that “some of Maehr’s science and panther
models are so faulty that government agencies using his work should
stop,” wrote Chad Gillis of the Naples Daily News in December 2003.
USFWS deputy field supervisor Tom Grahl wrote to Eller that
he was fired for missing deadlines in writing biological opinions for
development projects seeking permits “by a range from 71 to 140 days.”
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is helping Eller to
appeal the firing. “Eller was fired less than a week after the
election,” PEER executive director Jeff Ruch told Hayford of the
News-Press. “We think results had gone a different way, this action
would not have been taken.”

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