Hirsch, S. and Long, J. A. (2018). Non-epistemic values in adaptive management: framing possibilities in the legal context of endangered Columbia River Salmon. Environmental Values 27:5. 


Abstract: 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 recognize 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 policy-makers 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.