Fired Mapmaker Arouses National Controversy

By Adena Schutzberg

The GIS Monitor first covered Ian Thomas, a USGS contract employee allegedly fired for posting caribou calving area maps of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, back in March.Since then, the story has attracted widespread attention and was even lampooned in the Doonesbury comic strip.This week the Washington Post spends considerable energy to de-martyr Mr.Thomas, noting other problems Mr.Thomas had in his work and makes it clear that his contract was not on the list to be renewed, regardless of the caribou map incident.

Although the Post article confirms that Thomas was good at his job, it states that he wasn't quite so good at following procedure and staying within the bounds of his contract.Thomas' new job is with the World Wildlife Fund.

This story, spread in part by e-mails from Thomas to Internet newsgroups, initially broke in the LA Times.From that article and from materials from Thomas himself, it seemed to be about censorship.However, according to the Post, Thomas acted outside his charter and may even have published outdated data.The Post points out that environmentalists and conspiracy theorists have made a martyr out of Thomas, ignored the facts and used the story to further their cause.

This story is about far more than just maps and mapmaking.

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Published Saturday, May 26th, 2001

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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