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Sage grouse
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When scientific research turns up data that doesn't support your preferred policy, most reasonable people would think about adjusting the policy. Kathleen Clarke, on the other hand, would rather just change the data.

Clarke ran the Bureau of Land Management under former President George W. Bush, when much scientific data was ignored or redacted if it ran counter to that administration's lands policy, which was affectionately, and accurately, referred to as "drill, baby, drill."

And she is bringing that philosophy back to Utah as Gov. Gary Herbert's public lands policy coordinator.

Her target is the disappearing sage grouse, which has declined, according to Utah statistics, 1 to 2 percent a year since the 1980s. If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finds that the grouse should be protected under the Endangered Species Act, Clarke wants to be ready to refute those findings — whatever they might be.

It is a matter of life and death for the bird, but a matter of more or less widespread oil and gas drilling for energy developers. And it's not difficult to predict which takes priority in Utah.

Clarke told friendly legislators this past week that federal science can be "slippery" and "we should try to come up with some science that is honest and true and refutes it." Of course, the federal science must be slippery, since it may not fit the rock-solid, unbending political philosophy of Republicans that drilling, ranching and other land uses must be preserved over wildlife habitat when their interests conflict.

The "honest and true" science Clarke is determined to produce will, no doubt, provide little incentive to preserve sage grouse habitat and keep the species from extinction.

Her belief that federal science is suspect or inadequate has no basis in truth. There are peer-reviewed studies on the sage grouse and its habitat and dwindling numbers that go back decades, written by wildlife biologists and state fish and game agencies.

Ironically, Clarke was at one time director of Utah's Department of Natural Resources. But she seems to believe that the scientists in similar state and federal agencies are not as knowledgeable as those she hired and supervised; she automatically accuses those state and federal reports of being "slippery" science.

Utah should accept the most accurate research done on the sage grouse and not go science shopping, even if it means adapting development policies to protect the bird, as federal law requires.

Utah should accept science
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