Apparently abandoning its attempt to purge key wolf experts from a scientific peer review of a proposal to remove protections from gray wolves, a Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman acknowledged that the “optics of the situation” were a problem for the agency. In Washington, DC, parlance, you have an optics problem when it appears there is something wrong with what you’re doing. [UPDATE from our post earlier today: Top wolf science expert critics purged from Fish & Wildlife Service peer review panel]
From the Los Angeles Times, August 12, Plan to remove wolves from endangered species list on hold
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday took the unusual step of suspending the scientific peer review of its proposal to remove wolves from the endangered species list, saying the process did not meet the agency’s standards.
The problem arose when the service reviewed the list of scientists proposed by a contractor and was able to determine who the experts were by looking at their resumes, even though the names were redacted. …
The peer review of the delisting proposal has been put on hold for an indefinite time, [Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Gavin] Shire said. …
Shire said the “optics of the situation” require the service to proceed carefully.
See also Center for Biological Diversity, August 12: Agency Backtracks on Attempt to Exclude Wolf Experts From Review of Delisting Proposal
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that it will put on hold the scientific peer review of its proposal to remove protections for gray wolves across the country while it reviews its own actions leading to the disqualification of three scientists from the review panel.
Last week it was revealed that three scientists were excluded from the peer review because they signed a letter calling into question some of the science behind the proposal to delist the gray wolf. While the Service initially claimed that it had not asked for the three scientists to be removed, emails between the contractor supervising the peer review process and the scientists themselves confirmed that the Service had in fact done exactly that.
“We’re glad to see the Fish and Wildlife Service admit this mistake and hope this means there will be a true independent review of this deeply flawed proposal to remove protections for gray wolves,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director with the Center for Biological Diversity. …
“The Service should take a moment to reflect on why it felt it was necessary to go to such lengths to control the peer review process of this proposal,” said Hartl. “Perhaps it’s because the decision to delist the gray wolf is based on politics, not solely on the best available science.”