Friday, June 03, 2005

Data!? We don't need no stinking data!

Red State Rabble pointed me toward an editorial in the Albuquerque Tribune on an attack on science that hit a bit too close to home:
"The latest attack is right here in Albuquerque, where the Southwest Region director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has arbitrarily decided to limit the use of genetics in making official decisions on protecting endangered animals and plants.
"In essence, he announced that advances in conservation biology and scientific understanding and classification of species and sub-species should be ignored, in favor of only what was known at the time a species was listed as endangered or threatened.
"Human understanding of species, genetics and evolution has grown dramatically since the Endangered Species Act was adopted. The enforcement of this law should not be limited to some artificial point three decades ago, when science has advanced our understanding and knowledge exponentially since then - and continues to do so."
Apparently Dale Hall (the Southwest Region Director mentioned in the piece) hasn't heard about the use of molecular markers in ecological research (a burgeoning field known as molecular ecology). This is not just an attack on conservation or reluctance to appreciate what genetic tools can contribute to related fields; this is an outright attack on science:
"Science, which is based not on belief or desire but on factual, repeatable and sustainable evidence, should be the rock-solid foundation for environmental and conservation laws and regulations."
Thankfully, not everyone at the Fish and Wildlife Service shares Hall's view:
"Hall's counterpart in Denver, Mountain-Prairie Region Director Ralph Morgenweck, also challenged Hall, citing the need to broadly apply genetics to species at risk of extinction. To do otherwise, he says, 'could run counter to the purpose' of the law and appears to contradict the agency's long-standing policy of applying 'the best available science.'"
Someone needs to buy Dale Hall a copy of Avise and Hamrick's Conservation Genetics.


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