Quantcast

Report: Trump Admin. Suppressing Media Access of Government Scientists

Ryan Zinke visits Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota on May 25. Sherman Hogue / U.S. Dept. of the Interior

A new Trump administration protocol requires U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists to run interview requests with the Department of the Interior, its parent agency, before speaking to journalists, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The move is a departure from past media practices that allowed government scientists to quickly respond to journalists' inquiries, according to unnamed USGS employees interviewed by the Times.


The scientists fear the new rule would give taxpayers less exposure to USGS expertise, as journalists would seek scientific comments elsewhere.

"In the 44 years I was with the agency, I was never required to go through anyone for authorization to speak with a reporter," William Ellsworth, a former USGS scientist who is now at Stanford University told the Times. "The USGS is a nonpolitical science agency ... These new roadblocks will not help them fulfill their mission."

Scientists with USGS study the country's landscape, its natural resources and its natural hazards. The department also measures and analyzes natural and man-made factors that contribute to climate change—an issue that has become increasingly partisan since Donald Trump became president.

The LA Times cited a April 25 email from Interior press secretary Heather Swift stating that it is standard procedure for scientists to first obtain approval for interviews with media outlets when the topics are considered "very controversial or ... likely to become a national story."

The new policy also allows Interior's communications office to turn down interview requests on certain topics, the Times reported.

Faith Vander Voort told the newspaper in an email that "the characterization that there is any new policy or that it for some reason targets scientists is completely false," and that Interior had only asked the USGS public affairs office to follow guidelines established in 2012 under President Obama.

However, the guidelines do not say that scientists must get approval before speaking with reporters.

In fact, a 2015 USGS manual on news release and media relations policy states: "The USGS supports and encourages employees to speak on behalf of the USGS to news media representatives about their official work and freely and openly discuss scientific, scholarly, technical information, findings and conclusions based on their official, published work or area of expertise."

A number of senior employees have left the Interior department headed by former Montana congressman Ryan Zinke. Earlier this year, nearly all members of the National Park Service advisory panel abruptly quit in protest of the Trump administration's policies, which they say have neglected science, climate change and environmental protections.

"We resigned because we were deeply disappointed with the department and we were concerned," the former head of the panel, Tony Knowles, told the New York Times. "[Zinke] appears to have no interest in continuing the agenda of science, the effect of climate change, pursuing the protection of the ecosystem."

Sponsored
IKEA is working on a specially-designed, air-purifying curtain called the GUNRID. IKEA

Air pollution within the home causes 3.8 million deaths a year, according to the World Health Organization. A recent University of Colorado in Boulder study reported by The Guardian found that cooking a full Thanksgiving meal could raise levels of particulate matter 2.5 in the house higher than the levels averaged in New Delhi, the world's sixth most polluted city.

But soon, you will be able to shop for a solution in the same place you buy your budget roasting pans. IKEA is working on a specially-designed, air-purifying curtain called the GUNRID.

Read More Show Less
The first member of the giant tortoise species Chelonoidis phantasticus to be seen in more than 100 years. RODRIGO BUENDIA / AFP / Getty Images

A rare species of giant tortoise, feared extinct for more than 100 years, was sighted on the Galápagos island of Fernandina Sunday, the Ecuadorian government announced.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Elena Pueyo / Moment / Getty Images

By Adda Bjarnadottir, MS

Opinions on coffee vary greatly—some consider it healthy and energizing, while others claim it's addictive and harmful.

Read More Show Less
Morning fog over a boreal forest in Alaska. Alan Majchrowicz / Stockbyte / Getty Images

By Jennifer Skene and Shelley Vinyard

For most people, toilet paper only becomes an issue when it unexpectedly runs out. Otherwise, it's cheap and it's convenient, something we don't need to think twice about. But toilet paper's ubiquity and low sticker price belie a much, much higher cost: it is taking a dramatic and irreversible toll on the Canadian boreal forest, and our global climate. As a new report from NRDC and Stand.earth outlines, when you flush that toilet paper, chances are you are flushing away part of a majestic, old-growth tree ripped from the ground, and destined for the drain. This is why NRDC is calling on Procter & Gamble, the manufacturer of Charmin, to end this wasteful and destructive practice by changing the way it makes its toilet paper through solutions that other companies have already embraced.

Read More Show Less
Cycling advocates set up "ghost bikes," like this one in Brooklyn, in memory of bikers killed in traffic. Nick Gray / CC BY-SA

By John Rennie Short

As cities strive to improve the quality of life for their residents, many are working to promote walking and biking. Such policies make sense, since they can, in the long run, lead to less traffic, cleaner air and healthier people. But the results aren't all positive, especially in the short to medium term.

Read More Show Less