The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has asked UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) to select scientists who can ensure that the science behind the status of the gray wolf as an endangered species is properly vetted by a sound, peer review process.
In June, the FWS proposed to take the gray wolf off the endangered species list while adding a subspecies, the Mexican wolf, from the southwest to the list. This spurred objections from environmentalists and concerns from ranchers. The controversy heated up in early September, when the agency excluded several top scientists from an expert panel that would review the plan, apparently because of their views that the wolves need protection.
“We looked at the criticism and agreed with it,” said Dan Ashe, Director of FWS. “The service was too close to the selection of the panelists.”
NCEAS will manage and host the peer review process including vetting prospective reviewers and selecting a panel of five to six scientists. Steven Courtney, a past resident at NCEAS who has extensive experience in peer review, will lead the review process. All scientists, including those that FWS had previously excluded, will be eligible. FWS will have no role in the selection of panelists.
“FWS was looking for an unbiased, academic institution to support the review process,” said Frank Davis, NCEAS Director. “All interested parties can be assured that NCEAS will work hard to ensure the integrity of the peer review process.”