Decisions under the Endangered Species Act are supposed to be based on the best available science. However, sometimes politics, limited data or competing theories can complicate the decision making process. Additionally, the government agencies in charge of implementing the Act sometimes do not have in house expertise to evaluate certain types of data. Therefore it can be helpful for independent scientists to weigh in on endangered species decisions although the process for doing so can be opaque and the value that the agencies ascribe to scientists opinions can sometimes vary from appreciation to castigation.
As a scientist at an advocacy organization I will discuss how I work to inform ESA decision making including by engaging independent scientists in the process. From submitting public comments on a proposal to serving on a peer review panel, there are a variety of ways that scientists can lend their expertise to these agencies decisions. I will also discuss the consequences, both good and bad, that scientist involvement can have for both the decision making and the scientist. Although there can be risks associated with scientists involving themselves in ESA policy decision making, it continues to be absolutely essential that informed experts are consulted and involved in determining what constitutes the best available science when it comes to managing our endangered wildlife.