Failing grades on science merit

What is the Bush administration willing to sacrifice to push its agenda?

Once again, President George W. Bush’s underlings are searching for ways to bend science in favor of big business development.

The controversy surrounds the threatened Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, one of several distinct subspecies of jumping mice in the Western states. About a year ago, the Department of the Interior used Denver Museum of Nature & Science biologist Rob Roy Ramey’s conclusion that the Preble’s mouse is not distinct from another subspecies, the Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse, to try to remove it from protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The reason? The mouse’s habitat, about 31,000 acres in Colorado and Wyoming, is just waiting to be developed. And this little mouse, at only 44 mice per mile of stream, is hindering the developers. In a disturbing move, the Department of the Interior then hired Ramey as a contracted science adviser to attempt to reclassify several other endangered species whose protections were blocking developers. A subsequent study by the U.S. Geological Survey conservation geneticist Tim King, repeating parts of the 1954 original studies that established Preble’s mouse as a legitimate subspecies, concluded that Ramey’s conclusion was incorrect and independent academic reviewers agreed.

It will likely be some time before officials decide who will win on this issue. It is clearly an inappropriate skewing of science to pick and choose which studies to use when making environmental decisions. Many Bush supporters and developers will question the necessity of blocking “progress” for the sake of a tiny, questionably redundant creature. The argument is not for the mouse itself, but for biodiversity and the value of genetic variation in an increasingly homogenous biologic landscape.

Bush’s trend of using only pieces of scientific research and twisting what is available is not unique to this situation. He has been known to defend our country’s absurd air pollution control policies with this type of reasoning as well. The bottom line is: What is Bush willing to sacrifice to push his agenda?