CHEYENNE, Wyo. - A government watchdog group has filed a complaint contesting a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision not to add trumpeter swans that live year-round in the Yellowstone National Park region to the endangered species list.
Officials with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility(PEER) said Thursday the federal agency relied on false information when it issued its ruling last winter, violating the Data Quality Act. The group asked that the ruling be withdrawn in a complaint filed Wednesday.
In January, Fish and Wildlife ruled that the struggling Yellowstone trumpeter flock, also called the tri-state population, "interacts with and is not significantly different" from the rest of the Rocky Mountain population.
The Yellowstone flock resides in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.
While environmentalists claimed populations were dwindling, wildlife officials said the Rocky Mountain group - which includes the tri-state flock - has grown an average of 5 percent annually for more than 30 years.
But PEER attorney Dan Meyer said Fish and Wildlife supported its findings by relying on a previously unpublished study that contradicted decades of trumpeter research.
The Data Quality Act requires federal agencies to use peer-reviewed studies in their decisions, Meyer said, but the primary study in the trumpeter ruling had never been evaluated by swan experts.
PEER also alleged the agency distorted the findings of another study and omitted "any mention of the report's real conclusion."
"When the Service couldn't find a single study that would support their agenda, they simply fabricated one and misrepresented another," PEER national field director Eric Wingerter said. "It's pretty clear why they didn't bother running their new study by other trumpeter swan experts - it simply doesnÃ t meet basic scientific standards."
Chuck Davis, FWS endangered species listing coordinator in Denver, said not all data included in the ruling was reviewed by experts but that the agency used the best information available.
"The decision we have to make now is, was the data we did use sufficient to make the right decision?" he said.
Davis refused to elaborate because the complaint is still being reviewed by the agency.
The Fund for Animals and the Biodiversity Legal Foundation filed a petition in 2001 to list the Yellowstone swans, saying they are distinct from the larger population that primarily resides in Canada.
Both groups threatened lawsuits to overturn the ruling, and Meyer said his group could sue if it doesn't get the response it wants from Fish and Wildlife.
"We think this group of swans should be looked at on their own rather than as part of larger group," Meyer said.