Move to delist the Golden-Cheeked Warbler

April 24, 2017
Move to delist the Golden-Cheeked Warbler

A group in Austin is pursuing legal action to delist the Golden-Cheeked Warbler under the Endangered Species Act. (I was asked to comment.) They are using a study of the warbler by a group at Texas A&M that claims the bird is much more common than previously thought. Delisting can be a good thing -- it is the goal of a species management plan. Many furthermore believe that public-private partnerships that act in good faith to protect biodiversity are preferable to the inflexibility of the ESA. Unfortunately, the A&M group have not, to my knowlege, released their data to the public, and in fact have acted to supress publication of alternative interpretations of the data by City of Austin biologists, with whom they established a cooperative agreement as part of the research permit (which was unfortunately too vague regarding ownership of the data). It is rather sad that there are still parts of science, and I feel it is especially accute in field ecology, where people refuse to release their data to the public as soon as possible. We as scientists should not tolerate this behavior as it will in the long run compromise our field and our rationale for spending public money. But the bigger issue is you should not be allowed to use scientific evidence in court without publically releasing all of the data, and providing sufficient time for reanalysis, or ideally, replication of the study. We cannot afford at this juncture to allow any of our colleagues to even appear to harbor conflicts of interest. Not if we expect to continue to be publically funded.