Date: 6/27/18 6:48 pm
From: Joel Geier <joel.geier...>
Subject: [obol] USFWS issues 90-day findings for petition to DE-list Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo: caution on "citizen science"
A follow-up item:

Today's Federal Register entry also includes the results of a 90-day
review of a petition to *delist* Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo (the
subspecies that may still nest, very rarely, in Oregon). The petition
was filed bby the Arizona Cattlemen's Association, Arizona Mining
Association, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Public Lands
Council, and other groups.

You can find said petition at:
It presents evidence from genetic studies etc. carried out by the
consultants for this group, which apparently were discounted by USFWS.

However the USFWS gives credence to Section 5.3 titled: "New data on
YBCU habitat use and requirements indicate that the USFWS' analysis of
the conservation status of the purported western [distinct population
segment] of YBCU was in error." That section cites data collected by
the petitioner's paid consulting firm, Tucson Audubon, and "YBCU
detections collected by citizen scientists."

What were those data in the last category? See Table 1, "Recent YBCU
Survey Data." The consulting firm identified:

9 sites based on their own surveys,
23 sites based on Tucson Audubon records,
2 sites based on USFWS data
105 sites based on eBird.

Thus 70% of the sites in "non-typical" habitat to support this petition
come from eBird.

I hope that Oregon's eBird reviewers, in particular, will take note of
this. Once data go into a public record such as eBird, they can be used
by anyone, including anti-conservation groups.

As birders, we all know that there's a lot of slop in eBird's review
process. Right now I see a lot of "records" for Vesper Sparrows that are
in dubious situations, but which were not flagged by county reviewers.
This YBCU de-listing petition shows how inadequate review can come back
to cause real problems for species that need protection.

I hope this serves as a wake-up call for anyone who's been thinking that
"citizen science" data will always be used for a cause that you support.
Data are neutral, and can be used by anyone. Let's make sure at least
that reports of imperiled species are fully vetted before they get
enshrined in eBird.

Good birding,

Joel Geier
Camp Adair area north of Corvallis

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