Science Plays Defense: Natural Resource Management in the Bush Administration

Doremus, Holly
May 2005
Ecology Law Quarterly;2005, Vol. 32 Issue 2, p249
Academic Journal
The Bush administration has been heavily criticized by scientists for its use of science in the policy arena generally, including in natural resource management. The most widely circulated criticisms have accused the administration of politicizing science. The fundamental problem, though, is the opposite, the scientizing of politics. Political actors are often tempted to describe their decisions as scientific, but science is not, and cannot be, the primary driver of most regulatory decisions. The long history of scientific leadership within the conservation community has produced a sense in that community that emphasizing the scientific aspects of natural resource management necessarily works to their advantage. The current administration, however, has shown that the rhetoric of science can also be used defensively, as a barrier to regulation. This Article details several key methods the administration has used to pursue its strategy of defensive science in natural resource management. It concludes with the suggestion that a more normatively defensible, and perhaps also a more politically effective, strategy for conservationists would emphasize the need to bring two key procedural aspects of scientific practice, transparency and a commitment to updating, more strongly into the regulatory arena.


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