[Taxacom] scholarly standards in environmental assessments

Weakley, Alan weakley at bio.unc.edu
Thu Apr 28 09:02:00 CDT 2016


Fred -- I suspect most on Taxacom regard this as either non-science and not relevant, or at least out of their experience.

In a past life, I've written some EAs, reviewed many more, and been an expert witness criticizing some.  The quality is wildly mixed.  A lot of it is poor and there is in my opinion an intrinsic bias involved, in that the "environmental consultant" knows who is paying the bills, and therefore who needs to be pleased with the result.  Cue "studies of the risks of smoking funded by tobacco companies" -- the difference is that people care more about explicit health damages and could sue the companies.  Despite that, there are good and careful preparers of EAs and other regulatory documents.  

There's also the game between the regulator and the developer (and that's even assuming that the regulator is actually motivated to regulate, which is not always the case) of how much study (and how careful) is enough.  Probably needless to say, there is no standard that requires specimens to document IDs -- though the smarter and more ethical consultants would document anything that might be legally/regulatorily significant, like an endangered species.  Even egregious errors may be ignored (arguably rightly so) in review and approval because they are "immaterial" from a legal or regulatory view (like your complaint that 'ash' and 'poplar' are genera not species -- while technically true, does that matter to the regulator?).  This is fundamentally a legal and regulatory matter, with a scientific component.

Put simply, there are no "overall scholarly standards in EAs"; if it is deemed sufficient and approved by the regulator, "it's all good".   :-|  

Alan

-----Original Message-----
From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Fred Schueler
Sent: Thursday, April 28, 2016 9:21 AM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] scholarly standards in environmental assessments

* I haven't had any reply to this. Does this mean that there are no overall  assessments of the quality of the work that goes into environmental assessments?

There are some evaluations cited at
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_assessment#Criticism
but these don't cover the problems of taxonomically ignorant field work that I'm dealing with.

fred.
=================================================

On 4/19/2016 1:56 PM, Fred Schueler wrote:

> Over the decades there's been a certain amount of grumping on Taxacom 
> about identifications and specimen handling in environmental 
> assessments, and I wonder if anyone can point me to critiques of the 
> overall scholarly standards in EAs? My experience is summarized in the 
> definition given below. I'm writing a review of the herpetology of the 
> EA for the Boundary Road landfill east of Ottawa, Ontario, - 
> http://www.dumpthedumpnow.ca/ - http://www.dumpthisdump2.ca/ - and 
> preliminary google searches just give me the standards EAs are 
> supposed to meet, not those they actually implement.
>
> I can send my draft ms around for review to anyone who is interested.
>
> fred.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
>            Frederick W. Schueler & Aleta Karstad Daily Paintings - 
> http://karstaddailypaintings.blogspot.com/
> Vulnerable Watersheds - http://vulnerablewaters.blogspot.ca/
> Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills - http://pinicola.ca/mudpup1.htm
>      RR#2 Bishops Mills, Ontario, Canada K0G 1T0
>     on the Smiths Falls Limestone Plain 44* 52'N 75* 42'W
>      (613)258-3107 <bckcdb at istar.ca> http://pinicola.ca/
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> environmental assessment (administrative high-jink): a winter survey 
> of summer-active biota, usually authored by a biostitute. “Striking 
> prima facie errors populate this assessment. ‘Ash’ and ‘poplar’ are genera:
> not species. Cattails are absent, and almost all of the houses are 
> permanent residences rather than cottages... It’s curious that anyone 
> conducting an ‘environmental assessment’ would have missed this 
> rambling stand of the giant invasive grass, haplotype ‘m’ Phragmites 
> australis, the ‘Grass that ate New Jersey’...  Stronger language than 
> ‘good’ has been used of this marsh: ‘a previously unreported 
> Provincially Significant vegetation type in Ontario.’ The fact that 
> ‘no rare species were discovered’ by the assessors suggests a cursory 
> survey... [since] the Provincially Rare Quillwort Isoetes riparia at 
> this site ‘constitutes the largest known population in Canada and 
> likely the largest in North America.’” -- Willola Wanderer. -- from 
> The Devil's Addendum - http://pinicola.ca/devildic.pdf 
> _______________________________________________
> Taxacom Mailing List
> Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
> The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be searched at:
> http://taxacom.markmail.org
>
> Channeling Intellectual Exuberance for 29 years in 2016.

--
------------------------------------------------------------
           Frederick W. Schueler & Aleta Karstad Daily Paintings - http://karstaddailypaintings.blogspot.com/
Vulnerable Watersheds - http://vulnerablewaters.blogspot.ca/
Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills - http://pinicola.ca/mudpup1.htm
     RR#2 Bishops Mills, Ontario, Canada K0G 1T0
    on the Smiths Falls Limestone Plain 44* 52'N 75* 42'W
     (613)258-3107 <bckcdb at istar.ca> http://pinicola.ca/
------------------------------------------------------------
_______________________________________________
Taxacom Mailing List
Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be searched at: http://taxacom.markmail.org

Channeling Intellectual Exuberance for 29 years in 2016.


More information about the Taxacom mailing list