Episode 29 - Rob Wielgus
You will be fascinated by Dr. Rob Wielgus’ carnivore research and what he shows about how to improve coexistence with wolves, grizzlies and mountain lions. Rob’s is also a tragic tale of what can happen when a world class scientist gets crossways with entrenched political interests – and the livestock industry. Until recently, Rob was Associate Professor and Director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University. For the last 30 years, he and his colleagues and students have conducted internationally acclaimed research on large carnivores and their prey. Until being shut down in recent months, Rob’s lab was renowned in the carnivore research and management community for cutting-edge research.
The cause of Rob’s troubles? A few bad actors in the cattle industry and their regressive allies in the state legislature.
The implications? What happened to Rob sends a chilling signal about what is happening to free speech, scientific inquiry and academic freedoms in our country. We can expect increased politicization of large carnivore research, and attempts by livestock and other industries to shape carnivore science.
"I find it inconceivable that we don’t have such a no hunting boundary [for grizzlies] around Yellowstone Park, because hunting of bears outside of the Park will directly kill bears inside the Park. These are Park bears that are leaving the Park for a period of time -- they’re simply going to be shot. And if you’re killing male bears, Park bears, their cubs will be killed because of infanticide… It’s an assault on protected Park bears. …"
"It didn’t matter what you said about wolves, you couldn’t win. And if you reported the scientific truth on wolves, you’re pretty much dead. The Republicans just nailed me big time for that, and they were willing to nail the university for that. It was a ‘scorched earth’ policy. People wanted wolves dead, and that’s all there was to it. So scientific truth, academic freedom, all of that stuff, just went out the window."
"Universities are supposed to be the last bastions of academic freedom and scientific truth, and so usually they’re not influenced by immediate politics like that. And they’re supposed to stand independently in the name of scientific truth. And in this case the university didn’t, it simply caved in to political pressure…"
"If you state the scientific facts, you end up losing your job. And the will of the people, the American people, is being completely ignored because of this -- it’s just a real tragedy. I think we’re in a super critical period, where the wildlife and the American people are being downtrodden."