An open letter:
Those who attended the RangeNet 2003 Conference in Boulder, Colorado had the pleasure on November 6, 2003 of hearing Dr. Bruce Welch present the excellent research report "Countering Misinformation Concerning Big Sagebrush" (RMRS-RP-40) that he co-authored with Craig Criddle. You may even have picked up a copy of the report.
If so, your copy is now "obsolete". Why? Well, because the Station Director of the U.S. Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station took the unprecedented move of issuing a disclaimer of that July 2003 report eleven days later (coincidence?) on November 17th. That disclaimer has now been "weaseled" into the online version of the report http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs/rmrs_rp040.pdf and I have visions of all levels of Station employees furiously overhauling all remaining printed copies to weasel the disclaimer into them as well!
So much for academic freedom and objective research!
Thanks to Western Watersheds Project advisory board member Stan Moore for his excellent weasel hunting that ferreted out this incident.
The text of Station Director Patton-Mallory's politically motivated despicable prose is appended below.
Feel free to forward this email.
United States Department of Agriculture
File Code: 1630
Date: November 17, 2003
The USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station recently published the Research Paper, "Countering Misinformation Concerning Big Sagebrush," by Bruce L. Welch and Craig Criddle (RMRS-RP-40, July 2003). The authors state and discuss eight purported "axioms" regarding the ecology and management of big sagebrush. Publication of this report has generated a great deal of interest about the present state of science regarding big sagebrush and its relation to fire, grazing, and wildlife habitat. In addition, concerns have been expressed about some of the interpretation and analyses contained in the paper and the language in which they are expressed.
The views expressed by the authors are their own and do not reflect the policy or views of the USDA Forest Service. We acknowledge and respect the concerns that have been expressed about the tone and language used in this paper, and apologize to anyone who might have been offended. This would normally not have passed peer and policy review prior to publication by the Rocky Mountain Research Station. We strive to be a source of quality and unbiased scientific information. In light of the large distribution this publication has already received, I believe it is important to take positive action to provide opportunity for rebuttal and to publish a subsequent document that more broadly clarifies the debate and uncertainty about the ecology of big sagebrush.
The Rocky Mountain Research Station is in the final stages of publishing a thorough book-length synopsis of current information on big sagebrush by Dr. Bruce L. Welch. We have completed extensive scientific peer review and careful policy review of this book, and this new publication will be a more complete and authoritative reference on the ecology of big sagebrush.
In response to the interest and debate expressed related to the initial paper and in recognition of the considerable uncertainty that remains in the scientific literature regarding the larger science issues about big sagebrush, we invite interested scientists to help us better present a diversity of views on this topic. During the next year, we will assemble and publish a subsequent paper that discusses these issues further and helps provide a broader understanding and synthesis of the areas of disagreement on ecology and management of big sagebrush. We will include alternative perspectives on the "axioms" contained in the paper by Welch and Criddle, and also seek to achieve a level of synthesis and consensus as to the present scientific understanding, what areas of uncertainty and disagreement remain, and what research is needed to help resolve these uncertainties.
To express your views, to clarify debate on these topics, and to indicate your interest in participating as an author or co-author for the subsequent paper, please contact Dr. Jack B. Waide, Assistant Station Director for Research at (801) 625-5406 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. We would appreciate receiving your input no later than January 30, 2004.
/s/ Marcia Patton-Mallory