The Value of Science

By Beacon Staff

A couple weeks ago, the Missoulian reported University of Montana’s Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit (CWRU) landed a three-year, $150,000 grant from the Regina Bauer Frankenberg Foundation. The money will enable a team led by UM research associate David Ausband to “study how wolf deaths affect pack stability and population growth.” Good! As a sportsman, I’d like to know that, too.

Ausband, a canid biologist, has used past Frankenberg grants (two of $75,000 each), adapting hair sampling programs to count wolves, plus developing a “howl box” to call and then voiceprint response howls.

But I’d never heard of Frankenberg – the first thing I learned got my attention: The foundation’s full name, listed on IRS tax forms, is the Regina Bauer Frankenberg Animal Welfare Foundation – which the UM-CWRU press release didn’t mention.

Regina Bauer Frankenberg was a wealthy New Yorker, big in “animal welfare” circles. Miss Bauer was president of the Committee for Humane Legislation (CHL) when it successfully sued (with animal-rights group Friends of Animals) in the 1970s to end tuna purse-seining – i.e., dolphin-safe tuna. Furthermore, according to documents related to a 1987-88 financial lawsuit involving sweetheart self-dealing at the Humane Society of the U.S. (a virulently anti-hunting group), Miss Bauer sat on HSUS’s board of directors.

Miss Bauer died in the early 1990s, apparently without heirs or living relatives who shared her views. It seems her HSUS experience caused her to set up a perpetual trust with specific instructions on how and where her money would be spent long-term … rather than give directly in a lump to be sweethearted away.

Her foundation today is under sole trusteeship of J.P. Morgan Chase’s Philanthropic Services department (which charged $172,020 in 2010 to administer a $21 million “corpus” – a job the IRS form shows requires three hours a week). Chase employee Jacqueline Elias runs the foundation at present, overseeing about $1.2 million a year in grant distributions.

To qualify for grants, “organizations must be exclusively for the care of animals” – entities such as: Earthjustice, the wolf-and-everything-else lawsuit people, $50,000 in 2009; Defenders of Wildlife, more wolf-lawsuit folks, $50,000 in 2009; Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), $100,000 each of the past three years.

Friends of Animals also enjoys $100,000 from Frankenberg each year. That money officially supports “spay-and-neuter” programs, but in reality, such funding frees up other donations to support Friends’ litigation and lobbying efforts – for example, the Friends lawsuit over scimitar-horned oryx. Nearly extinct in Africa, oryx are plentiful (and hunted for big dollars) in Texas.

But, as Friends president Priscilla Feral insisted to CBS 60 Minutes, hunting is “unnecessary,” a “degrading and disrespectful way of treating an animal” – even if you eat it. Friends “believe that eating vegan is the most direct and life-affirming form of animal-rights activism.”

By the way, the Committee for Humane Legislation still exists. Its most recent IRS tax return (2009) shows income of $10 and assets of $61, after making a “gift” of $5,198 to Friends of Animals. Considering CHL shares a mailing address and board of directors with Friends of Animals, are you surprised?

I’m not, but I am a bit surprised and a lot concerned that a multi-agency, multi-state, long-established program like CWRU (even one at a university justifiably branded by the public as a “tree-hugger” institution) would accept wildlife research funding from a foundation that supports anti-hunting and animal-rights organizations. That’s like taking cigarette money to fund lung cancer studies.

Is money really that tight, and if so, are the risks to CWRU’s credibility worth it?

Several years ago, I was assigned to write about a full-blown academic and political war over timber salvage “science.” Long story short, I interviewed Robert Buckman, PhD, who prior to 17 years of teaching at Oregon State University, had spent 10 years as Deputy Chief of Research for the entire U.S. Forest Service. Dr. Buckman was kind enough to cut right to the guts, explaining the battle wasn’t “about science, but about value questions.”

Buckman admitted bringing a value system to his work. But, aside from ensuring their findings are “repeatable, verifiable and defensible,” Buckman warned that scientists can’t mix their value systems in with their science – if they do, “the science loses its value.”

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