Politicized Science Puts Endangered Species at Risk

A survey of scientists employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that more than 200 scientists say that conclusions of official findings have been reversed to weaken protections for fish and wildlife in order to aid industry. The study, conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists in conjunction with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, also found that more than half of the researchers who responded knew of cases in which industries had used political pressure to alter government findings unfavorable to their business interests. The survey also found the following:
  • Nearly half of all respondents whose work is related to endangered species scientific findings (44 percent) reported that they "have been directed, for non-scientific reasons, to refrain from making jeopardy or other findings that are protective of species." One in five agency scientists revealed they have been instructed to compromise their scientific integrity-reporting that they have been "directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from a USFWS scientific document;"
  • More than half of all respondents (56 percent) reported cases where "commercial interests have inappropriately induced the reversal or withdrawal of scientific conclusions or decisions through political intervention;" and
  • More than a third (42 percent) said they could not openly express "concerns about the biological needs of species and habitats without fear of retaliation" in public while nearly a third (30 percent) felt they could not do so even inside the confines of the agency. Almost a third (32 percent) felt they are not allowed to do their jobs as scientists.
In an article on the survey, the L.A. Times quoted one retired Fish and Wildlife Services biologist who said, "Political pressures influence the outcome of almost all the cases. As a scientist, I would probably say you really can’t trust the science coming out of the agency."
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