Release of USGS Study Delayed

On September 30, 2020, the Washington Post reported that the director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) James Reilly had blocked publication of a study for at least three months. The peer reviewed study, which has now been published, examined polar bear habitats in Alaska. It found that 34 percent of maternal polar bear dens are situated on land approved by the Trump administration for oil and gas development.

Internal USGS memos obtained by the Washington Post indicate that Reilly raised concerns about the validity of data sources and the style with which information on polar bear dens was reported. However, several experts with access to the study indicated that its findings were not anomalous from other peer-reviewed studies on polar bears in the same geographic area. A spokesperson for USGS said that "its “longstanding practice is to review scientific reports prior to publication to verify the strength of the science presented,” but a former USGS official reportedly called the delay in publication “unprecedented” and troubling.