(Missoulin) Several of Missoula’s top federal fire scientists have been denied permission to attend the International Fire Congress later this month, leading conference organizers to suspect censorship of climate-related research.
“Anyone who has anything related to climate-change research — right away was rejected,” said Timothy Ingalsbee of the Association for Fire Ecology, a nonprofit group putting on the gathering.
“Most of the folks from the Missoula fire lab, the vanguard entity in the Forest Service — all but a handful got cut. We were expecting about 44 scientists from the Rocky Mountain Research Station, and only six or seven have been permitted to attend,” Ingalsbee said. “Those folks are doing critical analysis on fire suppression effectiveness, which is a new area of research.”
“I reject that outright,” Rocky Mountain Research Station Director Colin Hardy said Wednesday. “As a leader of scientists and manager of climate science research, that’s simply not true.”
Hardy said the Forest Service allowed his lab to send six people to the Orlando conference. He had 20 applicants.
“My choices didn’t have anything to do with a particular subject,” Hardy said. “We were offered six slots to fill. There was no criteria or requirement for the kinds of people or things they talked about.”
Instead, Hardy said there are four criteria he followed to choose whom to send. They included an applicant’s potential role at the conference (presenter, organizer), how well their research niche fit the conference goals, and whether attending would have a valuable effect on the person’s professional service record.
Hardy said he didn’t even get to the fourth criterion, which considers budget efficiency through the federal Meeting Management System. He said because the whole Forest Service was only allotted 50 slots to attend the conference, funding for the travel was not an issue.