Lawmakers Attack Science of Endangered Species Act

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Published  08/23/2004 08:22 PM

Conservative lawmakers are using peer review and data quality language to obscure what amounts to an attack on the Endangered Species Act. Two new bills would require the Fish and Wildlife Service to establish minimum criteria for scientific studies used as the basis for listing species, and to conduct restrictive independent peer reviews on all data used.

Identical bills entitled "The Sound Science for Endangered Species Act Planning Act of 2004" have been introduced in the House (H.R.1662) and Senate (S. 2009). These data quality and peer review provisions would create extra layers of review to delay the listing of species. The Fish and Wildlife Service already has a backlog of 451 listed species awaiting critical habitat designations and 1,021 listed species without any recovery plans.

One provision would require the promulgation of criteria that scientific studies must meet in order for the agency to use them. This provision amounts to an individualized Data Quality Act for the Endangered Species Act. The Data Quality Act has received a great deal of criticism for providing industry with the opportunity to delay and weaken information used for regulations.

Another provision would require that "greater weight" be given to independently peer-reviewed science. This provision also mimics OMB's Peer Review bulletin, which was roundly denounced by the scientific community as an effort to manipulate and minimize scientific evidence.

House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA), who has endeavored to reform the Endangered Species Act since being elected, has steadily pressed the attack on endangered species science. In July, the House Resources Committee passed the "Sound Science" legislation, sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), on a 26-15 vote. While Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) has introduced the legislation in the Senate, the bill currently has no co-sponsors in the Senate, and faces much tougher opposition there.