The Goshawk Science Utilization Mysteries

Tree asked about the paper behind the news story on goshawks in our previous discussion here. So I went hunting in the Journal of Applied Ecology. I searched on goshawk, and found this in .. but it was from 2007. Which may explain why Hamis had heard about it. Here is a link to the article, fortunately it is public.

So this raises two questions.. is there a new one? A casual browsing of the NAU website did not yield this I put in an email to an author.

And what happened on the basis of this “latest science” in 2007? Was this considered the “best available” at the time? Why or why not? This could shed some light on the concerns of folks litigating the planning rule worried about interpretations of “best available.”

PS My understanding/memory (and I could easily be corrected) is that when the 2005-8 rule got cast out by the courts, the FS went back to the provisions of the 82 and projects had to follow the “best available science” and document it. So conceivably, if my logic and memory is correct, projects exist whose documentation discusses the pros and cons of this paper compared to other papers on the subject. Maybe one of our readers could point us to a discussion in such a document.

3 thoughts on “The Goshawk Science Utilization Mysteries”

  1. Sharon: How does the USFS define “Best Available Science?” I know that former EPA scientist Alan Moghissi has written a book on this topic, so I searched for USFS uses of his perspective and was pleased to find:

    However, when I tried to see how this information was applied at a practical level, I encountered this:

    Since I was “forbidden” to view the actual Wildcat II plan, I went to the Region 6 Search Engine, entered “Wildcat II,” and got this:

    I think the saying is: “The problem with distinguishing conspiracy from incompetency is that, on the surface, they both appear to be the same thing.” So much for USFS “transparency” to the landlords (“us”) — I think this is just one more indication of the pressing need for the USFS and USFWS to come clean on where they’re getting their Best Available Science from these days. And then they need to share that process with their employers. Newer isn’t always better.

  2. I bet those are just broken links and you should call the Umatilla project contact and point this out.

    My understanding (which could stand to be corrected) is that when a project is supposed to use the BAS, it means that in the documents you have to describe what scientific information you used and why you didn’t use others.

    This could be never-ending with people adding new articles daily, so for the Cimarron Comanche Grassland Plan, we asked for relevant scientific articles during the comment period to minimize “gotchas” during the objection period with articles we had missed or not thought relevant. If people tell you all the articles they consider relevant during the comment period, you can address how you considered them or not in the final document and that makes for smooth sailing.

    While BAS is a desirable goal, if you believe the paradigm that most appeals are about someone who doesn’t want the project, it gives another avenue for “kitchen-sinkery” or people citing hundreds of articles and then the agency having to respond to each one. Relevance, like beauty, can be in the eye of the beholder, not to speak of “best.”

    Finally, I don’t like the term “science” because it is a reification of something that doesn’t exist… if you mean “scientific information” then that can be defined. I had an FS colleague who defined science as including hypotheses.. it’s not clear really WHAT it is..but it my mind using the term keeps us from being clear what we are looking for, which is…

    1) information derived from currently used scientific methods AND
    2) reviewed by peers
    3) published in some form

    By globalizing the concept of “science” I think we take our eyes off the prize of figuring out what is really important to us about 1, 2 and 3, which makes the information more legitimate than other sources of information.

  3. With the extremely wide distribution of goshawks, over a very wide variety of landscapes and conditions, it seems that we need more site-specific information and knowledge. It is not surprising to me that we found a recently-active nest in one of our cutting units. Losing a few days work is worth finding a new nest.

    Ultimately, goshawk numbers are limited by nesting habitat. That is the entire reason for their listing. It is clear that they can be resilient in choosing acceptable nesting sites but, since they are territorial, all the prime locations are already inhabited. The parents soon chase off their young, after they learn to hunt.

    I’m sure that there is a minimum number of nests needed for reproducing pairs. Here in the Sierra Nevada, spotted owls and goshawks both re-use these nest systems. That makes nesting habitats here all that much more essential. I wouldn’t be in favor of “logging” or “mechanical thinning” in nest stands. However, hand thinning, piling of ladder fuels and burning could be a good way of providing some measure of fire resistance and resilience. Of course, that would have to be a part of a greater Stewardship Project.


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