Base Wildlife Management Decisions on Science, Not Politics


Target: Dan Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Goal: Make wildlife management decisions, such as endangered species listings, based solely on sound science.

A recent poll revealed 73 percent of U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FWS) scientists feel politics play too large a role in decision making at the federal agency despite the fact that the language of the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) specifically mandates listing decisions be made on the basis of the best scientific data available.

FWS scientists and leadership have clashed over certain management decisions. In a recent example, the FWS chose not to list the wolverine as threatened despite scientists’ concerns about the effects of climate change on the habitat of this species. There are only around 250-300 wolverines left in the continental U.S. A population this small is not only at risk from habitat loss, but from the inability to maintain genetic diversity. A decision not to protect the wolverine is not indicative of sound science.

Moreover, the requirements for a species to be listed under the ESA are much more comprehensive than those required to be delisted. In order to be listed as threatened or endangered, there must be overwhelming information from a myriad of sources that the species is in peril. A species’ “recovery,” however, is often decided upon swiftly and with just a few studies to support the claim.

We must work to ensure all management decisions are based on sound science and not corrupted by political influence or competing economic interests. Sign the petition below to encourage FWS leadership to base endangered species listings and other management decisions solely on sound science.


Dear Director Ashe,

A recent poll revealed that 73 percent of FWS scientists felt the agency places too much consideration in politics when making decisions, rather than in sound science. Conflicts seem to arise in the recommendation for listing species as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. I was concerned, for example, by the decision not to list the wolverine as threatened, despite clear recommendations from scientists that populations in the contiguous U.S. face serious threats due to climate change.

As any scientist knows, data itself does not have an opinion. Scientists are almost never placed in a position to make direct decisions because their responsibility lies in collecting data and presenting it in an unbiased way. However, it is up to decision makers to understand how to use these data to implement important policies.

Basing wildlife management practices solely off the best science available is not only a way to ensure appropriate decisions, but also a means to improve transparency and public understanding of the FWS as a regulatory agency. I’m urging the FWS to please rely on the recommendations of the scientific community, not politics, when making management decisions.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Steve Slocomb

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