Friday, April 6, 2012

DOI whistle-blower fired.

I normally try to avoid writing on environmental and political issues, and this isn't really my beat anyway, but this issue is too important to let go.  Scientific American has reported on a hydrologist that was fired from his position as scientific-integrity officer for the Bureau of Reclamation because he noted that some of the materials that were to be presented to the public as evidence of the need to remove four dams along the Klamath river painted an inaccurately optimistic picture of the results of removing these dams.  Let's take a look:

[I]n a summary document, the DOI said that studies had shown that the annual production of Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) would rise by 83 percent a year after the dams were removed.  However, it did not include any of the uncertainties about how the population would respond that an expert panel commissioned by the DOI had listed.  In the final version of the summary--which is now on a government web site--the number was changed to 81.4 percent. [...] The figure comes from an unpublished computer-modeling study and had an uncertainty range of 59.9 percent to 881.4 percent, which was not reported in the summary. [Emphasis mine]

This is ludicrous.  Let me be very clear:  I lean left when it comes to environmental issues, in particular preservation or restoration of natural landscapes, and I understand the importance of getting rid of dams that are not necessary.  I dream of a day when the Glen Canyon dam will be decommissioned, and public lands across the US will not be under constant attack by politicians insisting on the need to sell off large portions of 'unused' lands to the private sector.  However, lying to the public to gather support for removal of dams and then firing the whistle-blowers is not the way to get things done.  It is extremely unethical, and it is also extremely bad politics at a time when the environmental movement in the US, and modeling in particular, are coming under fire as being fueled by ideology-driven extremists who will do whatever it takes to achieve their goal and don't give a damn about the truth.  That this kind of behavior is being practiced by the DOI--the gub'mint, the mainstream--and not some fringe group makes it even worse because it provides some pretty heavy rhetorical ammunition to enemies of environmentalists.

Is it possible that an investigation will clear the Department of the Interior of its part in this scandal by allowing them to demonstrate that they had good reasons for firing Houser?  Well, yes, but the taint of choosing politics over facts when deciding to present this information to the public will still remain.

1 comment:

  1. Just par for the course for this so called "liberal" administration, probably the most anti- whistleblower one in history- i.e. whistleblowers being prosecuted under espionage statutes.

    Science definitely is not what is driving the dam removal, I am sure of that, politics is, and having shafted environmentalists on some issues- like the upcoming approval for the Keystone Pipeline link from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico after teasing folks with the possibility of denying the whole deal, look for other events like this to occur. For example, the impending approval for Arctic drilling, might be another flash point for this
    anti- environmental administration.

    For those reading this who might think that I am grasping for straws to make the point, just google Ivanpah or Blythe, for just a couple of examples proving my point about this administration and especially this current Department of the Interior.