SYMP 3-2 - Bringing science to the policy table: Opportunities for scientists to shape decisions around the Endangered Species Act

Monday, August 7, 2017: 2:00 PM
Portland Blrm 253, Oregon Convention Center
Charise Johnson1, Jessica Thomas2 and Gretchen Goldman1, (1)Center for Science and Democracy, Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington, DC, (2)Center for Science and Democracy, Union of Concerned Scientists

Science has always been at the foundation of strong public policy, but the Trump administration brings uncertainty in the role that science will have in the U.S. federal government. As political and corporate influencers pervade the federal government, early plans to distort or disregard science and scientific evidence put into question the effectiveness of our government safeguards to protect the public and the environment.

One of the strongest pieces of science-based legislation is the Endangered Species Act (ESA), responsible for conservation of species and their critical habitat on the basis of scientific evidence. However, too frequently economic or political considerations have interfered with the protection of threatened and endangered species. This issue is magnified in our current administration, where the ESA has already been a contentious topic, sparking proposals to undermine the use of science to inform ESA listing decisions. These proposals, if enacted, would increase costs to the already burdened Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the major enforcing arm of the ESA, and discourage independent scientists from contributing their research to the government for consideration.

Scientists are increasingly showing interest in leveraging their research findings to strengthen policy, yet often struggle with how to effectively engage. Amidst a noisy and complex policy decision making landscape, how can scientists best ensure ESA listing decisions are science-based? What opportunities are there for scientists to better inform and support the FWS has it works to protect species? Recognizing the need for scientists to inform the ESA process during this administration and beyond, the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists developed a toolkit to provide guidance and resources for scientists to hone their policy skills.


The speaker will discuss the current state of implementation and management of the Endangered Species Act—covering recent threats, opportunities to improve how science is used in the process and ways the scientific community can feed into decision-making processes around the ESA