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Fired for Publishing a Map?

Fired for Publishing a Map?

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Ian Thomas was fired by USGS. Why? He claims that his maps of wildlife interfered with the Bush administration�s desire to use public lands for oil and gas exploration. 

Thomas, a contract worker at the GIS & Remote Sensing Unit, Biological Resources Division United States Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, had created a map that showed caribou calving areas in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Government officials say that Thomas did not follow procedures, was working outside his duties and using outdated maps. �He was supposed to be working on migratory birds,� says Jay Hestbeck, chief of research at Patuxent. 

Although Thomas concedes his maps were inaccurate, he believes that the USGS overreacted in firing him. Others suggest more political reasons. Alaskan USGS officials had briefed Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton on ANWR during that week. And, US President George Bush is working to open the area to oil and gas drilling. Eric Wingerter, national field director for the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, called the firing �Orwellian.�

Thomas notes his goals for publishing the maps this way: �I thought that I was helping further public and scientific understanding and debate of the issues at ANWR by making some clearer maps. I also hoped that colleagues in USGS would see the maps and then contact me if they needed additional mapping help. I was careful to quote my sources and explain what I had done. I made no statement about what the maps might mean with regard to oil development of the refuge.�

Thanks to Bill Thoen for forwarding the details of this story.  

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