The Story of Fired USGS Employee in His Own Words

Ian Thomas

I still find it very hard to believe that I got fired for posting a single web page showing maps where caribou calve in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I was working as a cartographer for the Biological Resources Division of the United States Geological Survey at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

I strongly believe that the termination of my position by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) was a gross over-reaction due to the political considerations USGS is currently operating under with regard to caribou and development for oil within Area 1002 in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Over the last three years I created one of the largest global atlas collections on the Internet depicting animal distribution, vegetation, protected areas, and satellite images. This resource was removed from the Internet when I was dismissed. Some portions have now been restored to my old website but other parts are still missing. I hope all of my maps will soon be returned to the Internet. I cannot begin to thank everybody enough who wrote asking for the return of the website.

Unfortunately, I still do not have a copy of the caribou web page I put up online that resulted in my termination. However, some of the caribou calving maps I made were accidentally restored to another place on my old website and a friend found them. So I am finally able to show everybody the exact maps that got me fired! I hope you will be as amazed as me. When I posted these maps I never imagined that I would be terminated for doing so; in fact, I had no idea I was doing anything wrong at all. I simply thought that I was providing and improving the presentation of existing public information.

A friend has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for my old website. When it succeeds I will re-post all the caribou maps and everything else to this website so that everybody can come to their own conclusions over the reasons for my dismissal.

I would very much like access to use any new research data on wildlife in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Specifically I am very interested in the new caribou distribution data that was apparently shown to the Secretary of the Department of Interior, Gale Norton, sometime around Friday 18 March, just after I put my caribou maps onto the Internet. I believe that it is essential that everybody be given free access to this important information at the earliest opportunity. If somebody could please file a Freedom of Information Act request to get this new caribou distribution data, that would be great!

The migration of the Porcupine Caribou herd to and from its calving grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of Nature's greatest wonders. If we, the richest country on the planet, fail to act to protect this, one of our most precious expressions of biodiversity, what hope is there for any other natural park around the World? And what kind of example are we setting to other nations? I know for a fact that many of the remaining unique and important areas for global biodiversity are also, unfortunately, sitting on top of unexploited oil, diamonds or other mineral resources.

I greatly enjoyed working at Patuxent. It was a great place to work and I have many friends there. I 'm lucky enough to continue to be able to work on mapping biodiversity and the environment. I can absolutely promise that I will now try much harder to make even better caribou maps!

I cannot begin to thank everyone enough for publicizing this message and offering me so much support!