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Non-Epistemic Values in Adaptive Management: Framing Possibilities in the Legal Context of Endangered Columbia River Salmon

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Courts have determined that adaptive management does not satisfy the Endangered Species Act's requirement to use the 'best available science'. This is due, in part, to the failure to recognise the role of non-epistemic values in science. We examine the role of values in the legal controversy over the scientific reports and adaptive management plans for endangered salmon in the Columbia River Basin. To do this, we employ philosophical concepts related to risk and uncertainty that demonstrate how non-epistemic values are internal to science. We describe how, because adaptive management is a method for dealing with inductive risk, by remaining flexible, responsive and adaptive in those circumstances where the costs of making a mistake are very high, it requires special attention to ensure that it remains useful. We conclude that, because non-epistemic values will inevitably influence the 'best available science', it is critical that they are clarified in any adaptive management planning so that we can ensure the salmon conservation that the ESA mandates. Fortunately, because adaptive management is iterative in nature and includes opportunities for engagement between policymakers and scientists, it enables clarification of non-epistemic values through making standards of evidence transparent, acknowledging aims and goals and dealing with uncertainty at the institutional level.
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Keywords: Adaptive management; conservation management; science-policy interface; social construction of risk

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2018

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2019) of 2.158. 5 Year Impact Factor: 2.047.
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