Hear that whistle blow

  • GREG HANSCOM

 

Last year, Republican strategist Frank Luntz wrote a report, coaching Republicans on how to talk about the environment. Straight Talk is a fascinating, albeit nauseating, read — particularly the section about science. “Americans unanimously believe all environmental rules and regulations should be based on sound science and common sense,” it says. Then, Luntz does a mental backflip.

On global warming, he admits that the “scientific debate is closing [against us].” But rather than suggest any solutions, the report advises politicians “to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate… Emphasize the importance of ‘acting only with all the facts in hand,’ and ‘making the right decision, not the quick decision.’ ”

How should Republicans respond if they’re pressed to actually do something? “You should argue that America should invest more in research and development to find ways to burn fuels more efficiently.” In other words, form a committee, study the situation, maintain the status quo.

Don’t think we’re just bashing Republicans: The Democrats play these games, too. But as Laura Paskus points out in this issue’s cover story, government scientists are under increasing pressure to make decisions that are politically desirable, data be damned. In endangered species management, as in global warming, the precautionary principle is out the window.

From within the agencies, however, there is a hint of hope. Some scientists, sick of watching their research and recommendations dropped in the circular file, are finding ways to get the truth out. A few, like Michael Kelly — the fisheries biologist whose story is told in this issue — are blowing the whistle on wrongdoing within the agencies. Others are acting anonymously, by leaking information to advocacy groups and the press.

It’s a risky proposition. Scientists who stand up for the land and wildlife, or share information with the public, risk their jobs and, potentially, their careers and family life. But these agency scientists are the only hope for the Klamath coho salmon, the Rio Grande silvery minnow, the Peirson’s milk-vetch and a host of other imperiled species. Without them, we’d be forming committees and doing studies while the West fell to pieces.

So this issue goes out to the agency scientists — the “nameless, faceless federal bureaucrats,” as the Luntz report calls them (Do these folks know how to build morale, or what?) — who are standing up for real sound science and environmental protection. May a brighter day come soon for the West.

High Country News Classifieds
  • CHAPTER DIRECTOR - IDAHO SIERRA CLUB
    Idaho could lead the nation in the transition to clean energy, and the Idaho Sierra Club is committed to making that happen. We seek to...
  • SEASONAL SAN JUAN RANGERS
    Seeking experienced crew members to patrol Colorado's most iconic mountain wilderness.
  • ENDANGERED SPECIES STAFF SCIENTIST
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a staff scientist to advocate for the conservation of endangered species. General position overview: The position will involve working...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY - ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PROGRAM
    The Center for Biological Diversity - a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of imperiled plants, animals and wild places - seeks a dynamic...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a Staff Attorney to join our team of attorneys, scientists, campaigners who are working to protect America's public lands...
  • SOUTHWEST CONSERVATION ADVOCATE
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a Southwest Conservation Advocate to join our team of attorneys, scientists and campaigners who are working to protect America's...
  • OCEANS PROGRAM CAMPAIGNER
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks an experienced campaigner for its oceans program. The aim of the position is to campaign for the protection of...
  • CLIMATE LAW INSTITUTE ATTORNEY
    The Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute is looking to add an attorney to its team and will consider applicants at both staff attorney...
  • FULL-TIME CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a full-time Campaign Director in our Climate Law Institute to join our campaign for progressive, urgent government action to...
  • WESTERN WATER PROJECT MANAGER
    National Wildlife Federation is hiring NM-based position focused on riparian corridors, watershed health. Learn more and apply online: https://www.nwf.org/about-us/careers
  • ASSOCIATE PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Position Title: Associate Program Director Location: New Mexico; flexible in state Position reports to: Senior Program Director Position Closes: March 13, 2020 GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The...
  • DEAN, W. A. FRANKE COLLEGE OF FORESTRY AND CONSERVATION, UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
    Dean, W. A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, apply http://bit.ly/2548umjobs. AA/EEO/ADA/Veterans Preference Employer
  • GRAPHIC DESIGNER
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a creative and driven graphic design professional to design high quality print and digital collateral. The Graphic Designer will bring...
  • STEWARDSHIP SPECIALIST
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks experienced person to manage its 133 conservation easements in south-central Colorado.
  • CAMPAIGN REPRESENTATIVE
    Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign is hiring an experienced campaigner to lead our work challenging the oil and fracked gas industry on the Gulf...
  • AG LANDS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Oregon Agricultural Trust (OAT) seeks passionate relationship builder experienced in coordinating agricultural conservation easement transactions.
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • FINANCE DIRECTOR
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Coms/Engagmnt Mngr; Dev/Engagmnt Dir; Americorps vol
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND ENGAGEMENT MANAGER
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Dev/Engagement Dir; Coms/Engagement Mngr; & Americorps volunteer
  • SEASONAL TRAIL CREW LEADERS
    Lead the nation's premier volunteer-based trail crew programs on the spectacular Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. This is a great career-building opportunity for rising professionals....