Professor Holly Doremus has written several important works that have described the role of science in making decisions about endangered species. Her book with Dan Tarlock titled Water War in the Klamath Basin: Macho Law, Combat Biology, and Dirty Politics” is essential reading for the role of science. Her 2004 article “The purposes, effects, and future of the Endangered Species Act’s Best Available Science Mandate.” Environmental Law, 34, 397-450 makes several important points about the role of science in the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. I draw on her insights in my chapter on politics and endangered species in my Wildlife Politics book. One point that she makes in the article is that she doesn’t think academic researchers will play much of a role in “important policy decisions” because they will not want to divert time from their academic role especially in the short term such as for biological opinions. However, in my book, I study in detail some biological opinions and find that the UFWS is often able to get top experts in the field to do reviews. Indeed, I show that in some cases, the universe of relevant researchers is very small. However, I also show that these researchers often disagree, thus demonstrating one of the limitations of science’s role. I also discuss how Federal judges play a key role in determining which scientists to believe since both plaintiffs and defendants have scientists backing their arguments. I discuss how modern scientific assessments of dangers are now based on complex models which have several parameters that have to be determined by scientists that can determine the nature of the recommendations and I illustrate with cases on how scientists often disagree on these parameters—another limiting factor on the role of science. Doremus makes a distinction between questions that science can answer and those that must be determined by politics and policymakers. However, the line is not so clear. She uses the issue of whether “hatchery salmon” should be included in determining whether the fish should be listed. She argues that this is a question that cannot be determined by science. However, following this line of argument, should the captive populations of tigers (both those in worldwide zoos and those being “farmed” in China) and lions be used to justify the taking of wild tigers and lions? It seems to me that the distinction between wild and captive populations is clear—it is not a question that requires complex scientific research but it is not a subjective issue that politicians, not scientists, must make??
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During my research for the book, I noticed that there was no blog available for sharing informaton on wildlife conservation and thus I set up this blog to accomplish this purpose. Please share any informaticoncerning issues related to wildife policy and politics. I welcome feedback from users concerning this blog and website.