jueves, mayo 31, 2007

Union of Concerned Scientists to Congress: Politics Trumps Science at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

WASHINGTON (May 8, 2007)—The title of the May 9 House Resources Committee hearing poses a question: "Endangered Species Act Implementation: Science or Politics?"
The unfortunate answer is all too often "politics," according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
The hearing comes on the heels of a scathing Department of Interior Inspector General report that chastised former Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie MacDonald for distorting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) scientific documents to prevent the protection of several highly imperiled species. Just last week, MacDonald resigned her post.
Francesca Grifo, director of the UCS Scientific Integrity Program, is quick to point out that MacDonald's case is just one of many. The misuse of science at Interior has been reported on issues as diverse as mountaintop removal mining, cattle grazing, and the protection of trumpeter swans.
"While we welcome Ms. MacDonald's resignation," said Grifo, "Interference at Interior predates her arrival. Secretary Dirk Kempthorne must send a clear message to all Interior political appointees that substituting opinions for fact is unacceptable."
Grifo will provide compelling evidence to the committee that political interference in science has become epidemic—not only at FWS, but at agencies throughout the federal government. In a 2005 survey of FWS scientists, 84 scientists reported having been directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from FWS scientific documents. Furthermore, 303 scientists, or two thirds of those who responded to the survey, knew of cases where Interior Department political appointees had interfered with scientific determinations.
"This is not business as usual. When hundreds of federal scientists report political interference in their work, our nation's biological diversity is at risk," said Grifo. "Political meddling in endangered species science must be driven to extinction."
Grifo also deplored the fact that political appointees are making Endangered Species Act decisions "behind closed doors." She will urge Congress and the Interior Department to take concrete steps to open the Endangered Species Act decisionmaking process to more scrutiny. "Increasing openness in the decisionmaking process would allow us to hold policymakers accountable for their actions," she said.
UCS also called for FWS to review all Bush administration Endangered Species Act decisions to ensure that the science behind those decisions was not altered or distorted. "At the very least, Secretary Kempthorne should require an immediate reevaluation of decisions where political interference has been documented," said Grifo.
The hearing will start at 10 am in room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building and will be available live on the committee's Web site.
Grifo's written testimony will be available May 9, at 10 am.



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