Today, Earth Day, I will participate in the Albuquerque “March for Science.” This march champions science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. Around the world, people will call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders to enact science-based policies in the public interest. Public agencies have a responsibility to protect the public’s resources such as air, water and wildlife. They often fail miserably in carrying out this crucial responsibility. So, why am I marching?
I am a career wildlife biologist and have personally experienced attempts by special interests, and the governmental agencies they have captured, to bury objective, science-based decisions in support of narrow interests, which seek to profit at the public’s expense.
… Two critical issues that have the potential to unleash horrific, lethal impacts on humans and all life on Earth are climate change and the greatly accelerated rate of extinction of nonhuman life forms. The current rate of species extinctions is higher than it was during the last mass extinction of life on Earth 66 million years ago. It is caused entirely by one species – Homo sapiens. These issues have reached crisis stage largely because greed of special interests has trumped development and application of science that’s in the best interest of the public.
My last job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was to coordinate the program for recovering the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf, aka lobo. By 1980 our native lobos were reduced to just seven animals, all in captivity. Mexican wolves were saved from certain extinction by the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973. The act requires that all aspects of identifying and recovering endangered species be based solely on the best available scientific information – not politics.
The lobos’ return to the wild began 19 years ago. Early this year, the USFWS counted 113 Mexican gray wolves in the only wild population of this rare and beautiful wolf in the United States. The recovery of our native lobos to their former habitats in the American Southwest has been unnecessarily slow. Independent scientists have determined at least 750 wolves in three separate populations are needed to prevent extinction. … But special-interest political meddling in what should be a recovery guided by science could drive Mexican wolves to extinction. A bill, S. 368, has been introduced that would dictate the terms of a recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf, specifying USFWS must meet with ranchers, recreational groups, private landowners, and state fish and game agencies – but includes no mandate to meet with scientists….
This proposed legislation would force the USFWS to draft a plan according to criteria that have nothing to do with wolves or science. Mexican wolves need a science-based recovery plan to give them a chance at survival. This is a job for credentialed scientists unburdened by agency politics. The Senate must respect the ESA, reject S. 368, and let the USFWS go where the science leads it, or risk dooming the lobos and other species to extinction.
That’s why I’m “Marching for Science” this Earth Day.