Remember last year, during the presidential debates, when John McCain was speaking out against pork barreling? As an example, he liked to bring up a government-funded study of grizzly bear DNA: “I don’t know if that was a criminal issue or a paternal issue, but it was $3 million of our taxpayers’ money.” That always got him some laughs, and it seemed like a reasonable point at the time.
As it turned out, that study (headed by U.S. Geological Survey biologist Kate Kendall) produced the first reliable census of the largest grizzly population in the lower forty-eight states. And the results are great news for conservationists.
According to the National Wildlife article, “The grizzly population in northwestern Montana now stands at 765—two and a half times the previous government estimates.” The numbers were obtained by setting up 2,500 “traps.” Barrels of rotting fish attracted the bears and strands of barbed wire picked up fur samples when they walked by. This enabled the biologists to get an accurate census without disturbing the grizzlies.
“The results show that we can turn species toward recovery when we put money, attention and habitat protections in place,” says John Kostyack, NWF executive director of wildlife conservation and global warming. ”It’s an endangered species success story.”
I can’t help but wonder how much $3 million could have accomplished in actual conservation, but at least we’re seeing some evidence that protection efforts are working.
Since John McCain has a relatively good record on conservation (He’s one of the few Republicans that opposes ANWR drilling.), I won’t attack him for making fun of the study. The point is that funding for science can often accomplish something worthwhile.