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PRESS RELEASE 1/21/04
Smith Introduces Endangered Species Act Peer Review Legislation

 
            Washington, DC - On the opening day of the second session of
the 108th Congress, Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) introduced the Sound
Science for Endangered Species Planning Act (S. 2009) which would
require greater weight be given to field-tested and scientifically
reviewed data when making decisions under the Endangered Species Act
(ESA).
 
            "Decisions based on bad science can take a tremendous toll
on people who make their living from the land," Smith said.  "Just as
importantly, the environment doesn't benefit from flawed policies.
Preventing these mistakes is something everyone can support."
 
            In recent years, a number of cases have been exposed where
federal agency scientists either demanded actions not supported by
scientific data, or actually fabricated the data itself.   In December
2001, it was revealed that federal employees had falsely submitted hairs
from a captive Canada lynx during field surveys in several national
forests meant to determine the habitat of this threatened species.  
   
             In an Oregon newspaper, a Forest Service biologist
criticized his own agency for shoddy work.  The scientist questioned
much of the information collected over 18 years on one national forest,
claiming that decisions were based on sketchy information not obtained
according to protocol, or not collected at all.   The Forest Service
acknowledged the validity of the charges, and launched an investigation.
 
            In 2001, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National
Marine Fisheries Service developed two biological opinions on the
operation of Oregon's Klamath Project, as it related to suckers and coho
salmon, respectively.  In an effort to raise lake levels and water
flows, irrigation was stopped on the same agricultural lands that had
received water from the Project for almost one hundred years.  The
result was financial devastation for thousands of Oregonians before the
National Research Council found that the Klamath operating decisions
lacked "substantial scientific support."        
 
            Specifically, S. 2009 includes provisions that would:
 
!    Require the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce
to give greater weight to scientific or commercial data that is
empirical or has been field-tested or peer-reviewed when making
decisions under the ESA
 
!    Establish a mandatory independent scientific review requirement for
all ESA listing and delisting proposals as well as biological opinions
to ensure the use of sound science and provide a mechanism for resolving
disputes during the rulemaking process
 
!    Require the Secretary of the Interior to solicit and obtain data
from stakeholders to assist in  developing recovery plans, including
recovery goals
 
!    Require the Secretary to solicit recommendations from the National
Academy of Sciences in order to maintain a list of qualified reviewers
 
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