A new report from the Endangered Species Coalition, a conservation group based in Washington D.C., says decisions on endangered species are undercut by politics. The report examines 10 fish, plant and wildlife conservation decisions where, according to the coalition, science was ignored or suppressed.
The greater sage grouse, a chicken-sized bird, is featured in the report. After lengthy examination, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided not to list the bird as an endangered species in 2015. Coalition member Leda Huta said in that decision, the agency ignored science and allowed stakeholders to influence a greater sage-grouse planning strategy.
“Now the Department of the Interior, under Secretary Ryan Zinke, wants to reopen that plan,” said Huta. “They want to make policy changes to it and they’re already weakening protections for the sage grouse. It's incredibly problematic.”
Conservation decisions have long been influenced by politics, but Huta said the current administration is worse than others.
“Under President Trump, that pressure from special industry interest is worsening,” said Huta. “And has become almost indebted and infiltrated into the leadership position within these agencies and as a result, we're seeing a decline in scientific decisions around species.”
The report does not propose any solutions, but Huta hopes it will raise awareness to recommit to science when making decisions under the Endangered Species Act.