NEW YORK TIMES: Memos Tell Officials How to Discuss Climate
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NEW YORK TIMES
March 8, 2007
Memos Tell Officials How to Discuss Climate
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Internal memorandums circulated in the Alaskan division of the
Federal Fish and Wildlife Service appear to require government
biologists or other employees traveling in countries around the
Arctic not to discuss climate change, polar bears or sea ice if they
are not designated to do so.
In December, the Bush administration, facing a deadline under a suit
by environmental groups, proposed listing polar bears throughout
their range as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because
the warming climate is causing a summertime retreat of sea ice that
the bears use for seal hunting.
Environmentalists are trying to use such a listing to force the
United States to restrict heat-trapping gases that scientists have
linked to global warming as a way of limiting risks to the 22,000 or
so bears in the far north.
It remains unclear whether such a listing will be issued. The Fish
and Wildlife Service this week held the first of several hearings in
Alaska and Washington on the question.
Over the past week, biologists and wildlife officials received a
cover note and two sample memorandums to be used as a guide in
preparing travel requests. Under the heading "Foreign Travel - New
Requirement - Please Review and Comply, Importance: High," the cover
"Please be advised that all foreign travel requests (SF 1175
requests) and any future travel requests involving or potentially
involving climate change, sea ice and/or polar bears will also
require a memorandum from the regional director to the director
indicating who'll be the official spokesman on the trip and the one
responding to questions on these issues, particularly polar bears."
The sample memorandums, described as to be used in writing travel
requests, indicate that the employee seeking permission to travel
"understands the administration's position on climate change, polar
bears, and sea ice and will not be speaking on or responding to these
Electronic copies of the memorandums and cover note were forwarded to
The New York Times by Deborah Williams, an environmental campaigner
in Alaska and a former Interior Department official in the Clinton
"This sure sounds like a Soviet-style directive to me," Ms. Williams said.
A spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska, Bruce Woods,
confirmed the authenticity of the notes, but interpreted them
"The cover memo makes it clear nobody is being told they can't talk
about these issues," Mr. Woods said. "What the administration wants
to know is who is going to be spokesperson and do they understand
administration policy? It's not saying you won't talk about it."
Limits on government scientists' freedom to speak freely about
climate change became a heated issue last year after news reports
showed that political appointees at NASA had canceled journalists'
interview requests with climate scientists and discouraged news
releases on global warming.
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