WASHINGTON, July 29 (UPI) — The U.S. government suspended a wildlife biologist whose sightings of dead polar bears became a rallying point for environmental campaigners, documents show.
Biologist Charles Monnett was notified July 18 by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement he had been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation into “integrity issues,” The New York Times reported.
A copy of the bureau’s letter posted online by the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility indicates the investigation grew out of a 2006 report Monnett co-wrote regarding deaths of polar bears swimming in the Beaufort Sea.
Monnett’s report was taken up by environmental activists who used it to support their contention global warming and the retreat of sea ice were threatening the bears’ survival.
The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has filed a complaint accusing the ocean energy bureau, saying that in banning Monnett from conducting scientific work it had disrupted his research, including at least one continuing study of polar bears.
In a transcript of an interview of Monnett by two special agents for the bureau’s inspector general posted online by the public employees group, he is quoted as saying that “we got blasted, you know, really hard, by the agency” after the reports of the drowned bears circulated.
At another point in the interview he said of his superiors, “They don’t want any impediment to, you know, what they view as their mission, which is to, you know, drill wells up there” and “put areas into production.”