History tells us that listing a critter as an endangered species does little for the species and can do a great deal of harm to the local economies—the spotted owl and the delta smelt are two oft-cited cases. But there is not a big body of evidence showing how these listing decisions were made. It was just assumed that the species plight warranted protection.
But that was before the listing proposal for the dunes sagebrush lizard threatened a large segment of U.S. domestic oil production and the economies of Southeastern New Mexico and West Texas.
Rallies in opposition to the listing have drawn hundreds of irate citizens, hearings on the matter have had overflow crowds, and the public register has pages and pages of public comment. Both ABC and Fox News have done stories on the lizard
Acting on the outrage of his constituents and using his law enforcement background, New Mexico State Representative Dennis Kintigh gathered a group of independent scientists—several from area universities—who have spent the last several months reviewing the science underlying the listing. Their report will be released in a public meeting on Monday, August 15, in Artesia, New Mexico, in a roundtable format with the scientists available for questions.
Combining Kintigh’s FBI skills with the scientists’ expertise, the team is exposing fatal flaws in the proposed rule that should bring every previous listing, and the entire process, into question.
While the complete report will be available online on Monday, I’ve met with Kintigh and have a draft copy.
One of the biggest concerns is the supposedly independent peer review of the science on which the proposed rule is based. The Federal Register states:“It is the policy of the services to incorporate independent peer review in listing and recovery activities.”
To the average citizen, the underlying science may appear to have independent peer review as five different universities are listed as offering review—however, no names of the individuals or their qualifications are provided. The anonymous peer review process is routine in scientific journals, but in such settings, there is an established and trusted editorial board and reviewers are required to disclose any conflicts of interest.