“This falls into the basket of obstruction of science for policy or political ends,” says Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), based in Washington, DC. The watchdog group filed the complaint of scientific misconduct on 7 January to the Department of Interior on behalf of the scientists who work at the US Bureau of Reclamation office in Klamath Falls, Oregon.
For years, federal research on Klamath Basin fish and wildlife has been caught in an intense debate about whether to tear down a series of hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. Many environmentalists have blamed the dams for salmon die-offs and ecological decline, but some researchers have questioned the magnitude of expected benefits from dam removal.
The letter alleges that Klamath Basin Area Office manager Jason Phillips violated the agency’s scientific integrity policy adopted in 2011 as part of President Barack Obama’s nation-wide initiative to protect science from political interference. According to the letter, the scientists believe Phillips intended to shut down the research group — known as the Fisheries Resources Branch — after perceiving the team’s work on salmon and other fish contradicted the plans and findings of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
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