Imperiled by Politics: Report Details Threat to Pallid Sturgeon and Other Endangered Animals
WASHINGTON — Politics is trumping science in many government decisions about endangered plants and wildlife, according to a new report by the Endangered Species Coalition. Despite the requirements of the Endangered Species Act, pressure from special interest groups often unduly influence agency decisions, undermining science and wildlife conservation efforts in the process.
The report, “Suppressed: How Politics Drowned out Science for Ten Endangered Species,” highlights 10 imperiled fish, plant and wildlife conservation decisions over the last decade in which the science was either ignored or suppressed.
The report includes the endangered pallid sturgeon, a dinosaur-like fish that is threatened by a proposed concrete dam on the Yellowstone River, one of the last remaining large, relatively free-flowing rivers in North America.
“There’s a price to pay when government ignores science: this proposed destructive dam on the Yellowstone River will cost the lives of the last wild pallid sturgeon,” said Matt Skoglund, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Northern Rockies office, in Bozeman, Montana. “We simply can’t afford to lose this population of ancient dinosaur fish. Putting a new concrete dam across the river will worsen the habitat for pallid sturgeon and untold numbers of other native fish. Win-win options exist to keep one of the last large free-flowing rivers in North America open for pallid sturgeon while also providing water for irrigation.”
NRDC and Defenders of Wildlife nominated the pallid sturgeon for the report because this ancient “dinosaur fish,” whose ancestors date back more than 78 million years, is in imminent danger due to a century of dam-building. Pallid sturgeon have not successfully reproduced in the wild in decades. Dams and other human modifications to the river have blocked upstream migration, changed water temperatures, and destroyed much of the spawning and nursery habitat needed for the young to survive.
“Pallid sturgeon don’t have time for half-baked plans that blatantly ignore science,” said Aaron Hall, Rockies and Plains representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “There are open river solutions that will benefit both pallid sturgeon and irrigators. Dams have brought the pallid sturgeon to near extirpation. Agencies need to embrace an open river solution that does not include building a new, permanent dam on the Yellowstone River.”
“Our native fish, plants and wildlife aren’t just a critically valuable part of the legacy we leave for future generations of Americans, they’re key to providing a good quality of life for all humans right now,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “But we are concerned that the prevalence of special interest, industry representatives inside the Trump Administration is intensifying the suppression of science in endangered species decisions.”
Endangered Species Coalition’s member groups nominated species for the report. A committee of distinguished scientists reviewed the nominations, and decided which species should be included in the final report. The full report, along with a slideshow and additional species information can be viewed and downloaded at suppressedscience.org.
The Endangered Species Coalition produces a “Top 10” report annually, focusing on a different theme each year. Previous years’ reports are also available on the Coalition’s website.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.