Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mere Coincidence?

Last Friday, the Senate quietly confirmed Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne as the new Secretary of the Interior, replacing Gale Norton. The news, coming as it did on a Friday preceding the Memorial Day weekend and being overshadowed by the confirmation of General Michael Hayden as director of the CIA, produced relatively little media coverage.

In a short NOTED WITH INTEREST column on page A17 of today’s Washington Post titled "Questions about salmon are directed upstream," Blaine Harden notes that
only three people in the entire agency [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration], all political appointees, are authorized to speak of salmon.
Harden hypothesizes that the crack-down on comments about salmon was in response to positive statements in this earlier article by biologists from NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the benefits of dam removal on salmon populations.

So what’s the connection, if indeed there is one, between Kempthorne’s Senate confirmation and the suppression of information on salmon?

Well, on May 9, 2006, the Center for Biological Diversity and more than 100 other conservation groups had sent a letter to members of the U.S. Senate opposing Kempthorne’s confirmation, citing, among other concerns, his work
to suppress scientific information that shows that hydroelectric dams negatively impacted salmon populations in Northwest rivers.
Food for thought, certainly.

4 Comments:

Anonymous paul mckay said...

It is a shame that debate , especially scientific debate, gets stiffled so that one point of view is the only one heard. The administration seems to be more concerned with pleasing big business than it is in governing the country. This goes double for the house and senate, so we all suffer, with no national debate on serious issues, no sense of philosophy of government except to allow business to prosper and the inability of the scientific community to explain the pros and cons of government actions.

May 31, 2006 2:35 PM  
Blogger John L. Trapp said...

I appreciate the comments, Paul. Obviously you have yet to learn that what's good for big business is good for the country, and that big business can be trusted to regulate themselves and do no net harm to the environment. But seriously, it is sadly ironic that baby boomers such as myself can reflect back on Richard Nixon as perhaps the last President to take any significant actions to protect the environment. I, for one, am hopeful that in the near future considerations of ecological economics will play as prominent a role in making policy decisions as market forces are today.

May 31, 2006 11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While it is true that the suppression of information is occurring, and the supression is troubling (sickening) - the much larger problem is the starving of science in the first place. Suppressing some of what is coming out of the pipeline is a tiny problem compared to the refusal to put adequate resources into the production of science in the first place. The flow is diminishing because of severe funding shortfalls. Not so much at NSF, but at the federal intramural research agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey. Our colleagues have virtually no operational funds. I know one scientist who has a grand total of $4500 this year to pay for gas, tolls, equipment, housing/food at his field site, scientific meetings, page charges, field techs, etc. It is absolutely pathetic. The overall budget for USGS has been basically flat for years, so inflation (in salaries, costs, etc.) has eaten up the funding.

Ellen

June 01, 2006 7:17 AM  
Blogger John L. Trapp said...

Thanks, Ellen. Sadly, your comments are right on, and apply equally to all other wildlife resource programs managed by various Federal agencies. "Information is power," and the Federal government has traditionally played a major role in gathering and disseminating the information that has been used to protect and manage bird populations. Diminishing the flow of such information from Federal agencies leaves conservation organizations less well armed to fight for the protection of birds and their habitats.

June 01, 2006 8:23 AM  

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