DOI Adds “Recreation” Priority and Webpage, Continues to Lack Meaningful Focus on Other Priorities

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Over the last year, the Department of Interior (DOI) has adopted a new priority: through the creation of a new webpage and a series of recent announcements and orders, DOI has indicated a desire to make public lands more open for recreational (primarily hunting and fishing) uses than ever before. Though greater public control and access might be an admirable goal in some contexts, in this case it has the appearance of more of a calculated political call to a small portion of the U.S. population, at the potential cost of conservation gains for protected environments and species. The extensive harm done to public lands during the January 2019 government shutdown underscores the potentially disastrous impacts of giving the public greater access while compromising even the maintenance of those lands…

Evolving Language on DOI Webpages Shifts Focus from Long-term Conservation to Economic Growth

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Over the last three years, the Department of the Interior (DOI), which manages more than 20% of the nation’s land, has been altering its public image through documented changes to its agency tagline, mission statement, and priorities. Every individual DOI webpage (www.doi.gov/) displays the agency’s tagline. Most recently, in March of 2020, DOI changed its tagline, from “Protecting America’s Great Outdoors and Powering Our Future” to “Stewarding Conservation and Powering Our Future.” This alteration may be understood as a continuation of a larger trend of the Interior shifting its public image. In 2018, for example, the DOI weakened the wording of its mission statement from “…protects and manages…” to “…conserves and manages…,” discarding the word “protects” after at least 20 years. DOI also inserted language into its mission statement with clear economic overtures, such as the agency’s newfound intent to help people “prosper.” Over the last three years, DOI has changed its publicly stated priorities, removing emphasis on long-term conservation, and adding new priorities related to economic growth…

EDGI in the Time of COVID

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Though no field of work is un-disrupted by the global pandemic, EDGI has largely been a site of stability for its members — volunteers, paid contractors, and academics alike. This is an opportunity to reflect on and share a few pre-COVID practices within EDGI’s working culture that help to give the organization resilience through a disrupted context.

While all organizations with the ability to do remote work have had to address the technical challenges of doing so in the last two months, and many have addressed the need for social engagement now that we no longer see each other in the hallways, fewer seem to have addressed the issue of many people’s decreased capacity for work, while trying to juggle jobs, family obligations, and the increased stress of daily life. These are unprecedented times in which we’re all trying to do more with less. The pandemic’s global impacts affect each person differently. Some are struggling with isolation and need a sense of community and meaningful work while others are overwhelmed and need to focus on their own households. EDGI’s explicit approach is to support its members in either case…

EDGI Urges EPA to Withdraw its Ill-Conceived ‘Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science’ Proposed Rule

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The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) has submitted a public comment on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) regarding its proposed Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science rule (STRS), Docket number EPA-HQ-OA-2019-0259-9322. We welcome you to read and draw material from the comment we submitted and urge you to submit a comment as well. The deadline for comments is May 18, 2020.

The EPA’s original 2018 proposal for the STRS rule represented a sweeping proposition to upend the use of science in the EPA’s regulatory developments and decisions. The STRS would require that data and models underlying scientific studies that are pivotal to regulatory action be available to the public, and “dose response data and models” used in regulatory decision-making available for independent validation. The proposed rule states that that would ensure that EPA relied on “best available science” that “enhance the public’s ability to understand and meaningfully participate in the regulatory process.” EDGI’s 2018 public comment on the proposed rule details its problematic ambiguity and misappropriation of transparency to stymie science-based regulations intended to protect human and environmental health…

An Embattled Landscape Series, Part 2b: The Declining Capacity of Federal Environmental Science

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Over the past three and a half years, the Trump administration has engaged in a historically unprecedented campaign to shrink our government’s capacity for reliable, professionally vetted environmental knowledge. The most draconian statements of its vision have come in its annual proposals for budget cuts. Though these cuts have been repeatedly rejected by Congress, Trump political appointees have succeeded in significantly shrinking resources and personnel devoted to environmental sciences within the executive branch. This downsizing, done by means outside of Congressional control and underneath judicial and media radars, has left deep and debilitating scars on the scope and capabilities of federal environmental science, which will likely take years to repair. Our diminished capacity to understand the environments that surround us has corroded our government’s ability to protect our nation’s ecology and public health, leaving both more vulnerable.

Collaborative Authorship: EDGI’s Values-First Approach to Attribution

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By Kelsey Breseman, Stephanie Knutson, EDGI One of this year’s initiatives for EDGI’s working group on organizational structure is to more publicly share some of our organization’s modes of work, adding to a growing conversation around remote work, collaboration, and non-hierarchical decision-making. For this reason, we’d like to share EDGI’s Authorship Protocol. EDGI’s work developing […]

EDGI’s Take on Proposed Revisions Undercutting the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

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Photo: Jeffrey Hamilton By Marcy Beck, Gretchen Gehrke, and Aaron Lemelin EDGI welcomed the opportunity to comment on​ the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Proposed Rule: Migratory Bird Permits; Regulations Governing Take of Migratory Birds (Docket No. FWS-HQ-MB-2018-0090) in March 2020. This rule would narrow the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) […]

An Embattled Landscape Series, Part 2a: Coronavirus and the Three-Year Trump Quest to Slash Science at the CDC

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By Christopher Sellers, Leif Fredrickson, Alissa Cordner, Kelsey Breseman, Eric Nost, Kelly Wilkins, and EDGI Executive Summary The administration of President Donald Trump has repeatedly undermined science-based policy as well as research that protects public health. That undermining has eroded our government’s capacity to respond to the coronavirus — from the White House itself to […]

EDGI/EHAC Critiques Trump Admin’s Efforts to Weaken the National Environmental Policy Act

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The Environmental History Action Collaborative (EHAC), a working group of EDGI, submitted public comments to the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) on proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on March 9, 2020. Contributors include Pete Andrews, Gretchen Gehrke, Emily Pawley, Keith Pluymers, Chris Sellers, Adam M. Sowards, Ellen Griffith Spears, and Jay […]

EDGI Coauthors Data Risk Categorization Paper with ESIP

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By: Kelsey Breseman, EDGI The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) formed as an emergency effort to ensure public climate data stayed available in 2016, when it designed and organized 48 “Data Rescue” events together with the University of Pennsylvania where volunteers and activists saved 200 Terabytes of government data (EDGI 2018). These events prompted […]