Lackey, Robert T. 1997. Restoration of Pacific salmon: the role of science and scientists. In: Sari Sommarstrom, editor, What is Watershed Stability? Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial Conference Watershed Management Conference, Water Resources Report No. 92, University of California: pp. 35-40
Many Pacific salmon "stocks" (a term used in fisheries management for a group of interbreeding individuals that is roughly equivalent to "population") have declined and a significant, but unknown, number have been extirpated. How to solve the salmon "problem" is one of the most vexing public policy challenges in natural resource management. Even with complete scientific knowledge -- and scientific knowledge is far from complete or certain -- it would be a challenging policy problem. The salmon decline issue is often defined as a watershed alteration policy problem, in part because changes in watersheds are highly visible and often occur on public lands where individuals and organizations have direct input to decision making. The more difficult -- and critical -- part of the debate deals with policies and decisions affecting private rural enterprises (especially farming and logging); industry; electricity generation (including hydro, fossil fuel, and nuclear); national defense; urban development; transportation (including road, rail, air, and water); competing personal rights and freedoms; the prerogatives and roles of local, state, and federal government and Indian tribes; and policies on human population level, reproduction, emigration, and immigration. The salmon problem illustrates a class of policy issues that are socially wrenching and are becoming increasingly common in the western United States as demands increase for limited resources. Technocrats, scientists, biological resource managers, and scientific advisors should avoid advocating political choices driven by personal interest and packaged under the guise of a scientific imperative. However, it is equally important not to permit tough policy choices to masquerade behind the cloak of scientific imperative -- a prostitution of science and scientists that sometimes provides a convenient cover for avoiding difficult social choices. The complete implications of each alternative public choice should be fully and clearly explained, including the short- and long-term consequences, and especially the level of scientific uncertainty.