[Taxacom] scholarly standards in environmental assessments

Peter Rauch peterar at berkeley.edu
Thu Apr 28 12:22:10 CDT 2016

Fred, Taxacom-ers,

Coincidental to this discussion, the California Native Plant Society (CNPS)
just announced the initiation of a certification program for professional
field and consultinng botanists engaged in environmental assessments (sensu

See here for details:http://cnps.org/cnps/education/botanist_certification/
and here:


On Thu, Apr 28, 2016 at 7:02 AM, Weakley, Alan <weakley at bio.unc.edu> wrote:

> 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/
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>      RR#2 Bishops Mills, Ontario, Canada K0G 1T0
>     on the Smiths Falls Limestone Plain 44* 52'N 75* 42'W
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