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Researchers: Include data about societal values in endangered species decisions
Date:12/6/2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is excluding significant research findings about human threats to protected species, researchers argue, even when the law governing the agency's actions requires the use of all relevant data in determining whether species need protection from extinction.

A group of scientists, led by Jeremy Bruskotter of Ohio State University, argue in the December issue of the journal BioScience that research about societal values should be considered along with biological and ecological data in listing decisions.

The Endangered Species Act requires the secretary of the interior to make decisions about listing species "solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available."

The researchers use the Fish and Wildlife Service's 2009 decision to remove gray wolves from endangered species protections to demonstrate how social science data can be used to inform species listing decisions.

In the case of the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains, public opinion about wolves varies considerably among livestock owners, hunters and wildlife conservationists. But social science research about those opinions was essentially disregarded when the Fish and Wildlife Service removed wolves in the northern Rockies from Endangered Species Act protections in 2009, the scientists assert.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service didn't use the data as required by law and they need to start doing this, especially when a species is so clearly subject to human-caused threats," said Bruskotter, an assistant professor in Ohio State's School of Environment and Natural Resources. "There is a lot of theory and data in the social science literature that could assist the Fish and Wildlife Service in evaluating human threats. What is holding them back is the agency's myopic focus on biological data."

That delisting decision was recently reversed by a federal court for reasons unrelat
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Contact: Jeremy Bruskotter
bruskotter.9@osu.edu
614-247-2118
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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