Conservation biologists have long debated whether and how it is appropriate for scientists to influence policy decisions. A pair of essays in the journal Conservation Biology (one published, another in press) asks whether it’s appropriate for scientists to review and critique recovery goals for endangered species. Wilhere (2012) argues that because recovery criteria are inherently normative (values driven), scientists are engaging in “inadvertent advocacy” when they criticize such criteria. In a response, myself and coauthors agree with Wilhere that recovery criteria represent an interaction of science and values, but provide a different view on the appropriate role of individual scientists and scientific societies in reviewing recovery criteria and recovery plans. This debate is central to recovery planning for many species, and we suggest a way forward for the agencies to more clearly separate the normative and scientific elements of recovery criteria. We call on the agencies to develop an explicit decision framework that would provide the flexibility needed to address the unique biological circumstances faced by different species but would limit the abuse of discretion that has allowed political interference to drive many listing and recovery decisions.
The Wilhere paper is here.
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