I just came from a wonderful two part seminar given by a friend over in our College's Wildlife Biology department. His first part was very good and it explained what he and his collaborators have discovered in the migratory behavior of big horn sheep in the Sierra.
He then got the audience up to speed on the wolf de-listing controversy. Here's what I gather: Back in April the LA Times leaked a PROPOSED DRAFT rule to de-list all gray wolves in their historic range. Wolves are doing well in about 15% of that range. They don't exist well in 85%. So the proposal cites the work of many conservation biologists. Some of those cited decided, based on their reading of the draft document, to write to the DOI that houses OUR federal Fish and Wildlife Service. They wrote in review of the leaked draft claiming that the conclusions drawn from their work were inaccurate.
Next, the FWS decides that their proposed rule is ready for peer review. Originally there were some of the same people who wrote the in disagreement on the peer review panel. Then, someone decides that their behavior in letter writing makes them more likely to be biased in their official review of the draft.
As an audience we heard the reaction of John Vucetich about his removal from the panel. He said that his role as a scientist was to make decisions based on his earned expertise in a subject matter. That is what he and his colleagues did in the letter. The shared their intelligent perspective on things. Now, since he did that, he is disallowed of doing the same thing in an official capacity?
Here's where it got juicy in there. The group of wildlife biology graduate students and professors got to share their perspectives on all of this. Surprisingly (to me) the older professors said that it was inappropriate for the scientists to write the letter in the first place given that what they reviewed was a leaked draft. There is a system of public comment and they should get in line and wait their turn. Hmm. Okay, so basically know your role and shut your hole. Only speak when you are called upon? Isn't this a democracy where we are allowed to voice our opinions in the proper forum?
What really got me was this. A younger student assumed that one of the letter writers was displaying an "I [heart] wolves" button on their website. It turns out that is not the case, this is just an image that Google displays when you search for images associated with that scientists name. Besides that, let's go with the premise that the scientist does love wolves and is not afraid to stand for that love in button form. The student said that they question the validity and objectivity of the science performed by someone who displays their love of wolves on a web page.
I love parks. I have this statement in my name placard on my office door. I am a parks and recreation social scientist. I embody the ethos of parks and recreation. It is what I authentically stand for. If we cannot keep the fires of wonder burning in our conservation science. We are lost.