Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Federal scientist blocked from addressing climate change at wildfire conference; others on hold

The U.S. Forest Service kept an ecologist away from a national conference of fire experts, where he was scheduled to talk about the role that climate change plays in encouraging wildfires. This year's record-breaking wildfire season scorched 8.8 million acres across the Great Plains and western states.

"William Jolly, a research ecologist with the agency's Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, Mont., was supposed to give a 30-minute presentation titled 'Climate-Induced Variations in Global Severe Fire Weather Conditions' at the International Fire Congress in Orlando, Fla., next month. The event is hosted by the Association for Fire Ecology," Brittany Patterson reports for Energy & Environment News.

It isn't an isolated incident. "No travel authorizations were given to researchers from the Rocky Mountain Research Station's Human Dimensions Science Program, according to AFE. That includes Karin Riley, a research ecologist who studies the relationship between climate and wildfire. Riley is vice president of AFE's board of directors," Patterson reports.

Three U.S. Geological Survey researchers have been waiting for approval for months to speak about climate change at the same conference. USGS spokesperson Catherine Puckett told Patterson that the agency is following normal procedures and anticipates that the researchers' requests will be submitted to the acting director of USGS for approval.

"A total of 48 Forest Service employees have been approved to speak at the conference, the agency said. Of those, 12 are scientists. About 110 scientists made requests to attend the event," Patterson reports. "At those levels, federal participation would be significantly down for the 2017 Fire Congress. At the last Congress, held in San Antonio in 2015, 180 federal employees attended out of the 578 total participants. Nearly 70 percent of all government participants were USFS employees, according to AFE." None of the Forest Service employees approved to speak at the conference next month appear to be addressing climate change specifically.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency blocked three scientists from making presentations at a climate-change conference, Patterson notes.

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