One of the reasons why we train to become conservation scientists is the assumption that evidence can shape policy. Clearly, we love science for its own sake, but we really love to know that our work can inform, for example, those who make and enforce the ‘rules’ under which wildlife either thrive or perish.
When policy makers disregard evidence, that’s a problem. Its worse yet when it appears that they misuse and abuse science. In fact, governments that behave in such a manner ought not to call their activities ‘scientific management’.
Our very own Kyle Artelle led a letter this week in Science, which concisely makes this point. We illustrate our case with a grizzly bear system in British Columbia. Despite our recent paper that identified a risky management strategy, the provincial government recently opened previously closed and at-risk populations to trophy hunting.
Our letter provides global context, citing other cases in which governments have used the guise of science to make decisions counter to those which would emerge if the weight of evidence was honoured. For example, wolves are being de-listed from the Endangered Species Act in the US without strong evidence of long-term recovery. Badgers face lethal control in the UK, despite limited evidence for their role in disease transfer to livestock. In all cases, politics trump science, seemingly with more audacity these days. We hope colleagues, conservationists, and society take note – and confront – what appears to be a disturbing trend.
See also related coverage of our letter and paper in Nature News
Image: Andrew S Wright