- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 6, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Your recent article on how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service handles petitions for endangered-species listings raised the question of how scientific data from NatureServe is used in that process (“Wildlife service glutted with 681 petitions for protection,” Page 1, Tuesday).

As a non-advocacy, nongovernmental organization that conducts scientific analyses about wildlife and habitats, NatureServe makes every effort to ensure that the data are as reliable and accurate as possible. The fact that our data are used equally by federal agencies, private landowners and environmental advocates such as WildEarth Guardians, which submitted the petition, testifies to the quality of the data and to our reputation as an independent and objective source.

The article points out the lack of available information about many of the species the Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed, especially concerning threats to them. It is indeed true that scientists still have much to learn about many species, especially less charismatic ones such as insects; this attests to the need for more research and resources devoted to informing decisions as complex and important as whether to list a species under the Endangered Species Act.

NatureServe takes no position on the merits of federal listing for any specific species. As the Fish and Wildlife Service correctly recognizes, our conservation-status assessments should be used as just one of several important factors in those listing decisions, not as the sole basis.

Whatever one’s political views, let’s all agree that public-policy decisions should be based on facts and high-quality science, not rhetoric.

ROBERT M. RIORDAN

Director of communications

NatureServe

Arlington

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