FWS whistleblowers expose intimidation, obstruction of justice

Published January 1, 2000

James M. Beers, a 31-year employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), testified before the House Resource Committee that he had not agreed with his supervisors at FWS about their funding for animal rights grant applicants. Beers told the Washington Times FWS “is getting tighter with the animal-rights people and trying to distance itself from hunters, fishermen, and trappers.”

Excise taxes collected by FWS from fishermen and hunters are required by law to be distributed to state and local fish and game agencies to promote resource management and conservation, train hunters on safety, construct shooting ranges, and implement other conservation-oriented activities that meet specific guidelines.

Because a grant request from the Fund for Animals did not meet those guidelines, Beers rejected the grant application, although he was pressured by supervisors to approve it. Beers told Conservation News, “I dedicated my professional career to wildlife conservation. I am appalled at the way I see conservation funds being looted and used to fund government and private efforts to undercut hunting, fishing , trapping and the state agencies that manage them.”

For this and other disagreements with FWS supervisors, Beers was forced to leave his position with the agency. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel represented Beers against FWS for violations of federal personnel regulations and won a settlement for him of $150,000, payment of attorneys fees, and a letter of apology.

Bonnie Kline, an eight-year FWS employee and friend of Beers, told the Resource Committee her superiors had ordered her not to cooperate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or other federal investigators, including the Resource Committee investigation.. She also testified she was instructed to destroy files–which are now missing. After refusing to destroy the files, Kline testified she lost her security clearance, and the combination to her safe, in which the files were stored, was changed.

Warned Representative Don Young (R-Alaska), chairman of the House Resource Committee, “Poor judgment and misusing funds is one thing, but obstruction of this Committee is a whole new ball game. This Committee will do everything possible to get to the bottom of this and find out exactly what they’re trying to hide. Any Fish and Wildlife Service or Interior Department employee who destroys any additional records will be held in contempt of Congress and face felony charges. Any Department of Interior official who ordered such actions will be held accountable.”