Biologist, whistleblower would have prevailed

Posted: Tuesday, April 08, 2008

U.S. Forest Service biologist Glen Ith, a Petersburg resident, was a whistleblower. It was my great privilege to advocate on Glen's behalf prior to his passing recently of sudden cardiac death.

In 2005, Glen learned of a logging road being constructed in an area of the Tongass National Forest where no timber sale had yet been approved. Glen appealed to the agency but his concerns fell on deaf ears. He contacted Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics in August of 2005 and sent photographs of the road work, together with an e-mail message suggesting that because of the road reconstruction, the timber harvest for the log stringer bridges and the decision to harvest were all connected actions, that something was amiss in the Forest Service's process.

It turned out Glen had uncovered a pattern of illegal road building on the Tongass which, together with FSEEE, he challenged in federal district court. In December, 2006, Judge Sedgwick agreed with Glen, saying in words almost identical to Glen's, that, "The Forest Service concedes that it has violated NEPA, specifically that the use of a categorical exclusion for the road contracts at issue was improper because the road reconstruction and the planned timber sale projects constitute connected actions that should be considered in the NEPA documents for the timber sale projects."

Glen also appealed the Scott Peak timber sale - slated to log 347 acres of temperate old-growth rain forest on Kupreanof Island - because he believed cumulative impacts from nearby logging hadn't been adequately studied. Again, his concerns were upheld and the timber sale remanded for further analysis. Glen's subsequent challenge against the re-issued Scott Peak sale, on the grounds that it failed to consider environmental analysis critical of the logging, was pending in federal district court at the time of his death.

In the months prior to Glen's passing, he was reassigned to a different office and then placed on administrative leave pending his supervisor's request that he be terminated. Glen protested his reassignment and administrative leave to the Office of Special Counsel, which agreed there was sufficient evidence of retaliation to launch an investigation. With Glen's death, the Special Counsel closed its investigation.

He had an unshakable belief that our system of government would work. Although the path might be difficult and demand perseverance, he believed truth would prevail. I have no doubt he would have prevailed.

Andy Stahl

Executive director, Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics

Eugene, Ore.

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