Is the United States government blocking scientists from talking about climate change? Forest Service research ecologist William Jolly was slated to give a presentation titled “Climate-Induced Variations in Global Severe Fire Weather Conditions” at the International Fire Congress – but was denied approval to go to the conference. And the Environmental Protection Agency recently reportedly blocked three scientists from talking about climate change at a Rhode Island event.
Jolly, who works at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Montana, was going to give a 30-minute talk in Florida at the November 28 through December 2 conference hosted by the Association for Fire Ecology (AFE). According to Scientific American, critics are saying Donald Trump’s administration is suppressing the spread of science paid for by taxpayers. The Department of Agriculture, parent agency of the Forest Service, said regional managers mostly determine who will attend conferences based partly on available financial resources, and that political appointees do have the final word but don’t tend to weigh in on which people are chosen.
Spokesperson Mike Illenberg said in a statement, “Our front line supervisors and managers weigh a variety of factors including cost, frequency of employee travel, conference location, the number of other employees attending, among other factors in making our business decisions about conference attendance. Based on their recommendations and resource availability, Forest Service leadership gives final approval.”
Researchers with the Rocky Mountain Research Station’s Human Dimensions Science Program were also denied travel authorizations – one was Karin Riley, AFE’s board of directors’ vice president, who researches the relationship between wildfires and climate. Three scientists from the United States Geological Survey scheduled to speak about climate change at the wildfire conference are still waiting for a response on their travel requests.
Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology executive director Timothy Ingalsbee said, “While the number of acres burned, homes destroyed, civilians killed, and tax dollars spent on suppression are going way up, why is the number of Forest Service scientists and managers meeting at professional science conferences and technical training workshops going way down?”