FWS pressured scientists to twist data on an endangered beetle

Credit: Brenda Dobbs/Flickr

Scientists working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say the agency pushed them to downplay the threats that the oil and gas industry pose to the American burying beetle—a small, orange-spotted insect that was on the brink of extinction when it was first listed as endangered in 1989. Development disrupts the beetle's role as nature's recyclers: The bugs roam large areas of land, looking for carcasses to bury and turn into homes for their young. Gross, sure, but also a key ecological function that is threatened by toxic pesticides and habitat loss and segmentation from projects like pipelines. One of the researchers says he was “shocked and disappointed at the poor science, lack of professional integrity, and impulsive decision-making” by the FWS. (He’s not the only one.) Oil and gas execs have campaigned to roll back the imperiled insect’s status, which the FWS is currently reassessing. This, of course, is just one example of the Tump administration encouraging tainted science and preordained conclusions in what is supposed to be independent government research. Continued reports of redacted studies and backwards methodology are watering down the administration’s scientific legitimacy across the board—on issues of climate change, energy production, land use, and endangered species large and small.

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