'Duck cops' ruffle feathers

  According to a confidential survey compiled by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), many law enforcement agents at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say their program is corrupt, understaffed and underfunded. "Protection of our resources is not as important as pleasing special groups," said one special agent in the survey. "Our biologists and refuge managers are too scared to speak out. We have sold out." About 230 agents, nicknamed "duck cops," are employed by Fish and Wildlife Service to make sure wildlife laws and regulations are followed across the nation. This small staff must enforce such far-reaching laws as the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and agency spokespeople concede it's a tough job. "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is aware that there is not enough funding and resources available," says the agency's Sandra Cleva. "The agent's work is arduous and stressful. Our people are stretched very thin." Cleva says the agency had not previously heard complaints of corruption from the agents but that it is currently being "looked at very seriously."

PEER's survey questions were provided by current and retired special agents. Of the 187 agents who were contacted, 60 percent responded. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Survey, including selected responses, can be found on the Web at www.peer.org or by contacting PEER at Suite 570, Washington, DC 20009 (202/265-7337).

* Juniper Davis

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