Friday, January 16, 2015

Managing Wildlife as if Science and Ethics Mattered

By Bob Ferris

Gregor Barnum (left) and Bob Ferris at Kingsbury Farm.
Jeffrey Hollender former CEO of Seventh Generation once posed a question at a sustainable business
conference I attended several years with our shared friend the late and missed Gregor Barnum.  What he asked was basically this: Can you describe a product that makes the world better?  He clarified that he was not looking for products that cause less damage than others or minimize impacts.  After 15 minutes or so of bamboo bicycles and yogurt cup tooth brushes (all good ideas), the crowd was stumped and could not provide an example.

I think about this episode in Vermont now as I contemplate the way we manage or mismanage wildlife, because our system seems to be one of only taking protective actions when we are doing irreparable damage and even then we pretty much muddle around.  Under this system we think that wolf and coyote derbies are fine as long they do not cause population-level damage or wipe out species.  But as we have seen with bears in the Pitt River area in BC even these minimum regulations can lead to abuses and impacts.

My question, which is a modification and amplification of Jeffery’s, goes like this: When are we going to wise up and start managing wildlife for positive results and in a manner than demonstrates that ethics and science really matter?  Under this approach folks would have to demonstrate that their actions would have a positive impact as well as being ethically or scientifically justified in order to be considered and allowed.

This proposed screen would knock out the animal killing contest or so-called derbies and likely much of what are solely trophy pursuits but would retain ethical hunting programs of abundant or super-abundant species.  This would also remove a good portion of what the greater public finds most objectionable about hunting which would be a good thing for hunting and ethical hunters.

In a world of degrading climate, increasing population and compromised habitats our guiding management principle simply cannot be one of avoiding significant additional damage but one that sets a higher standard of betterment.  Otherwise we will continue to ride this downward spiral to its logical (or illogical) conclusion.

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