Arrest of MLPA “Initiative” science co-chair should be no surprise

MLPA Science Team co-chair Ron LeValley (L) and “Initiative” Exec. Dir. Ken Wiseman

by Dan Bacher

An article in the Eureka Times Standard and Willits News on February 26 is headlined, “Shock, disbelief follow arrests: Biology community has trouble digesting embezzlement allegations.” However, those familiar with the Marine Life Protection Act “Initiative” (MLPAI) that one of the arrested biologists, Ron LeValley presided over as an official, are not surprised at all.

The article by reporter Thadeus Greenson ( HERE ) features the reaction of North Coast biologists to the arrest of Mad River Biologists’ Sean McAllister and Ron LeValley Thursday on $1 million warrants accusing them of burglary, embezzlement and conspiracy to commit a crime. The Del Norte County District Attorney alleges that the two well-known biologists participated in an elaborate embezzlement scheme headed by former Yurok Tribe Forestry Director Roland Raymond that bilked the tribe out of $900,000.

The article claims, “When news spread Thursday that a pair of respected Eureka biologists were arrested for their alleged roles in an elaborate embezzlement scheme, the reaction was stunned disbelief.”

“Many in the biology community contacted on Friday — before information contained in the search warrant affidavits outlining the investigation was reported in the Times-Standard — declined to comment for this story, saying they didn’t want to get involved and preferred to let the legal process run its course. All, however, said the two men’s reputations are beyond reproach,” according to Greenson.

The article quotes, C.J. Ralph, a research scientist with the U.S. Forest Service, “With all the work they have done over many years — and Mad River Biologists has set a very high standard for intellectual and financial integrity — I have no doubt that when this finishes up, they will be found not to have done anything wrong.”

Greenson goes on to claim that Ron LeValley’s work “is so well respected that he was chosen recently to be a member of the Marine Life Protection Act’s science advisory team, serving as its bird expert.”

In reality, LeValley’s role as the Co-Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative’s Science Advisory Team (SAT) shows his lack of scientific integrity, since the so-called “science” team was created by an unaccountable, privately funded process characterized by numerous conflicts of interest, corruption and the violation of many state and federal laws.

In my opinion, it should be no surprise that a “scientist” willing to serve as a top official in such a corrupt process would be arrested on charges of embezzlement from the Yurok Tribe. If the allegations turn out to be true, there should be a complete and independent investigation of LeValley’s role on the MLPA Science Advisory Team to see he if was engaged in similar activities in the MLPA process as the ones he was arrested for.

The MLPA Initiative is funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation and backed by some of the worst corporate greenwashers on the planet, including the Western States Petroleum Association, Walmart and Safeway Stores.

In an overt case of corporate greenwashing, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, served as chair of the MLPAI Blue Ribbon Task Force that created the questionable “marine protected areas” that went into effect on the Southern California coast on January 1, 2012. She also served on the task forces for the North Central and North Central Coasts. The Western States Petroleum Association represents California’s major refiners including BP Plc, Chevron, Exxon Mobil Corporation and Tesoro.

The so-called “marine protected areas” created under the corrupt MLPA “Initiative” fail to protect the ocean from oil drilling and spills, water pollution, wave and wind energy projects, military testing, corporate aquaculture, habitat destruction and all other human impacts upon the ocean other than fishing and gathering. These “marine protected areas” are in reality “marine polluted areas,” due to the lack of aggressive water quality protections allowed under the Initiative, and “marine poaching areas,” due to the lack of enough DFG wardens to enforce the new fishing regulations along the California coast.

The complete lack of integrity of LeValle and other “scientists” on the MLPAI Science Advisory Team was demonstrated in August 2010 when the SAT turned down a request by lawyers and scientists of the Yurok Tribe, the same Tribe he is accused of embezzling money from, to make a presentation to the MLPAI Science Advisory Team. Among other data, they were going to present data of test results from other marine reserves regarding mussels (http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2011/07/15/tribal-science-challenges-mlpa-initiative-assumptions).

“The data would have shown that there was not a statistical difference in the diversity of species from the harvested and un-harvested areas,” wrote John Corbett, Yurok Tribe Senior Attorney, in a letter to the Science Advisory Team on January 12, 2011. “The presentation would have encompassed the work of Smith, J.R. Gong and RF Ambrose, 2008, ‘The Impacts of Human Visitation on Mussel Bed Communities along the California Coast: Are Regulatory Marine Reserves Effective in Protecting these Communities.’”

However the “scientists” and MLPAI officials didn’t want to see data that conflicted with their pre-determined conclusions. No Tribal scientists were allowed to serve on the MLPA Science Advisory Team, in spite of the fact that the Yurok and other North Coast Indian Tribes have large natural resources and fisheries departments staffed with many fishery biologists and other scientists.

The Science Advisory Team was also the focus of a protest by Tribal members organized by the Klamath Justice Coalition and Coastal Justice Coalition on June 29, 2010. Members of local Tribes interrupted the meeting of the group that LeValley co-chaired, demanding that they not be blamed for the decline in ocean fisheries.

“We gathered and harvested the ocean’s bounty for thousand of years in a sustainable manner,” said Frankie Joe Myers, a Yurok ceremonial leader and member of the Coastal Justice Coalition. For California to blame Tribes for it’s reckless mis-management of our fisheries for the last century is simply appalling.”

To watch the video of the protest, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qcox-tHsJNw. Note that LeValley is the second person to introduce himself at the meeting.

In addition to serving as Co-Chair of the MLPAI Science Advisory Team, independent journalist David Gurney contends that LeValley may have been involved in the cover-up of an endangered blue whale killed by a boat conducting a survey for the MLPA “Initiative” off Fort Bragg in October 2009 (http://noyonews.net/?p=4931).

When looks at all of the available facts and evidence, it is no surprise that LeValley has been arrested on charges of burglary, embezzlement and conspiracy to commit a crime.

Ironically, Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander, who is prosecuting LeValley and the other two suspects in the embezzlement case, has some big problems of his own now. “Alexander has undermined his efforts to reinvent himself with numerous lapses, now resulting in an FBI probe and State Bar of California investigations on top of prior suspensions of his law license,” according to Sunday’s Sacramento Bee (http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/26/4291502/from-meth-addict-to-del-norte.html).

The Yurok Tribe will release a press release regarding the arrests of LeValley, McAllister and Raymond on Monday, February 27. Stay tuned for more breaking news on this embezzlement scandal.

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