Society for conservation biology newsletter volume 14, Issue 1

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Volume 14, Issue 1

February 2007


1. Policy Director Joins SCB

2. A note from Policy Director John Fitzgerald

3. SCB launches major initiative to apply science to North American and global environmental policy

4. Viewpoint: flight to extinction?

5. 2007 Society for Conservation Biology Awards

6. Updates from Regional Sections and Working Groups

7. 2007 Smith Conservation Fellows

8. Online Free, sponsored memberships, and consortia expand access to SCB benefits and publications

9. Call for 2008 award nominations

10. 2007 annual meeting: information on registration and program

11. Announcements

12. A field report from the IMoSEB meeting in Montreal


SCB is delighted to welcome John Fitzgerald as our society’s first Policy Director. John began working with SCB on 4 January. Many thanks to the search committee, chaired by Mike Dombeck, for contributing their energy, expertise, and experience to the search process.

John is a member of the District of Columbia Bar. He has worked with an array of conservation organizations and governments to evaluate strategies and secure improvements in federal and international law and policy in the areas of natural resource conservation, anti-corruption measures, international development, and socially and environmentally responsible investing. In recent years, for example, he helped various groups work with United States Representative Pelosi and United States senators Leahy, Lugar, and others to improve United States environmental and governance standards for multilateral development banks.

John served in the Policy Bureau at the U.S. Agency for International Development, evaluating and reporting to Congress and the public on the environmental impact of USAID and proposed World Bank projects. His early methods for ranking nations’ stewardship of natural and human resources contributed to development of a foreign assistance initiative, the Millennium Challenge Account and Corporation.

As chief counsel at Defenders of Wildlife for ten years, John was a leader in the Endangered Species Coalition. He lobbied and coordinated litigation to improve the protection of endangered and sensitive species in domestic and international law. He prepared and coordinated the lawsuits that ended United States agencies’ assistance in building the Three Gorges Dam in China and required listing decisions for hundreds of candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act. He drafted the original dolphin-safe tuna labeling law. John helped to strengthen oil spill legislation in the United States as well as sanctions available against nations that undermine international conservation agreements. He helped to initiate several reforms and facilitated key listings under the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species. John also helped to negotiate the Convention on Biological Diversity and prevent efforts to weaken its provisions.

John served as a legislative aide and subcommittee counsel in the U.S. House of Representatives for more than five years, contributing to the development of Superfund, energy conservation, and other initiatives.

Fitzgerald came to Washington, D.C. in 1977 to establish the office that evolved into both the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the National Public Interest Research Group Network after directing the Earlham College office of the Indiana Public Interest Research Group and chairing the statewide Board of InPIRG throughout law school.


As a political scientist, natural science is not my native language. After spending the better part of my career in wildlife conservation, environment, energy, responsive government, and related issues, however, I have learned to communicate well if scientists speak clearly and use enough helpful metaphors. Then I usually can translate science for policy makers, judges, elected representatives and agency staff, and others. But most important is not what I am able to say but how I may be able to help SCB members, Regional Sections, and local chapters speak directly on issues on which they are the experts, and speak together on positions that SCB members share globally or across North America.

It will take some time to assess our opportunities and build on SCB’s existing capacity. The strength of our publications and expertise of our members probably is unsurpassed. Most policy makers who intend to remain in public service actually value expert information above all. Our job is to provide that information in a way that meets their deadlines, in language that is accurate and effective both in law and in science. We must provide expertise without undeclared biases, in terms that clarify that the relevant questions have been asked, responses weighed, and alternative solutions presented with the best available estimates of risks, costs, and benefits associated with each. At best, we can begin by helping policy makers ask the critical questions of the appropriate people. As such we are best seen as adjunct staff, asked for our advice, and trusted to give honest answers and creative suggestions that arise from either what we know, or expert suggestions about how to proceed in the face of uncertainty.

We will continue to represent SCB in arenas in which it has been active, such as the Endangered Species Coalition, and we will respond to requests for technical assistance from members of the United States Congress and others who seek our input in the near term. What we undertake and how we undertake it over time, however, will be determined by the Policy Committee and the Board of Governors, who in turn will seek guidance from all SCB’s members.

The staff of the Executive Office and the several board members and other leaders I have had the pleasure of working with so far have made me feel most welcome and appreciated. They say you can’t go home again, but if feels like we are already there. Please feel free to contact me at Thanks.
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