A U.S. Geological Survey scientist says he was fired for his internet posting of politically sensitive maps illustrating the biodiversity of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge where President Bush wants to drill for oil.

?I had bad timing!? said Ian Thomas. He says the maps contained information that was already public. He has posted data about bird and mammal migrations, vegetation and ice formations, but when he posted a map of caribou calving areas in the refuge, it cost him his job.

?My supervisor called me in and said my map was unauthorized,? he said. ?The USGS were briefing [Interior Secretary] Gail Norton on new data, data that isn?t public,? he claims. ?When all of a sudden someone puts out these pretty pictures?right in the middle of a presentation.? The pictures were from his website, where he has maps of every wildlife refuge in the U.S.

The research director of the Geological Survey?s Patuxent Wildlife Refuge Center in Maryland, where Thomas worked, said Thomas was fired for ?doing work outside of his task order.? He was supposed to trace the routes of migratory birds, not caribou.

The Sierra Club has estimated that drilling in the refuge ?would require 280 miles of roads, hundreds of miles of pipelines, 50 million cubic yards of gravel scoured from nearby ponds and rivers, and massive production facilities.?

?I guess there?s no way I?m going to get my job back now,? Thomas says, ?but I hope that people become aware of the political pressure that scientists are under.?

In a related story, the New York Times reported on Friday, March 30, 2001 that President Bush had abandoned his plans to open the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling, due to overwhelming bipartisan congressional opposition.

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