Compromise on Sage Grouse: Good or Bad? The Conservation Coalition differs over compromises such as the decision not to list the Sage Grouse. As the following article in National Wildlife Magazine by Ted Williams discusses, most national conservation organizations support this deal such as the Audubon Society that believe this is the best deal possible and that listing of the grouse would endanger the entire Endangered Species Act. Participants in the agreement include hunters who favor preservations efforts and, through fear of listing, oil and gas companies. Here is the link to the article:
Prevention of Listing through a Voluntary Approach in Southeastern U.S.: The USFWS & many Congressional critics of the Endangered Species Act have pointed to the huge backlog of species that organizations such as the Center for Biological Diversity have petitioned for listing. The Wildlife Management Institute article describes an effort to use State Wildlife Grant money and other means to reduce the threat to these species in the Southeast and claims that their efforts resulted in 12 species being listed as threatened rather than endangered and many others entirely removed from listing consideration. Here is the link: https://wildlifemanagement.institute/outdoor-news-bulletin/october-2016/collaboration-demonstrates-success-imperiled-species-southeast
Wild horse dilemma: Charismatic species poses “policy cycle” problem? This New York Times article is an update on a problem that has been around for more than a generation: what to do with an increasing wild horse population that conservationists claim is harm the environment for other species. Likewise, cattle ranchers say they are reducing grazing for their cattle. On the other side, the horses have strong support from several groups organized to protect this charismatic species. The problem illustrates the policy cycle: Congress passed a law to protect wild horses and burros in 1971 that resulted in a huge increase in their population. Advocates for horses do not accept lethal solutions and the charisma of this species has made BLM (and Congress) step back from using euthanasia. Consequently, the Bureau of Land Management is now responsible for managing the growing number of wild horses. Thus the solution to the disappearance of wild horses created a new policy problem: the overabundance of wild horses! Link to the article:
Changing Science & decisions about endangered species: Decisions about endangered species are supposed to be made based on the “best available evidence.” But science is an ongoing process and new findings often revise estimates of threats based on models built with old assumptions. An illustration of changing science concerns threats to species dependent on cold weather and snow such as wolverines and pikas. Warming climate led USFWS to call the U.S. wolverines endangered but subsequent studies questioned the basis of this determination—I discuss this in detail in my book, Wildlife Politics. More recently still, two articles discuss how wolverines, pikas, and other cold-weather dependent species may be able to find “refugia” that are cooler than most of their habitat and thus preserve them despite increasing temperatures. See the discussions in High Country News article by Julia Rosen at http://www.hcn.org/articles/can-microclimates-offer-safe-havens-for-threatened-species?utm_source=wcn1&utm_medium=email
And an article published in Plos One by Jennifer Curtis at http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0106984
Conflicting studies over impact of oil drilling: Another problem with science is that different research often produces conflicting results so that decision-makers have to decide which studies to employ in decisions. A recent Wyofile article by Scott Streater points to an article published by U.S. Geological Research and Colorado researchers that fewer males visit leks where well density reached a critical level. In contrast, a study done by the Western Energy Alliance and Petroleum Association of Wyoming claims that advances in drilling technology (horizontal drilling in particular) have reduced surface disturbance so that wildlife including sage grouse “can flourish” around “energy development.” See http://www.wyofile.com/wyo-drilling-increased-grouse-numbers-declined/
The consequences of such disagreement mean that government agencies like the USFWS and possibly Federal courts have to decide which studies to believe in making decisions about protecting habitats of grouse and other species.
Conflict over Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean: An October article in Science magazine by Cassandra Brooks et al. discusses political problems in trying to use MPAs for conservation. They say that even though the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CAMLR) have made concessions to nations such as omitting areas of high ecological value in the MPAs to avoid conflict with commercial fishery operations, Japan, South Korea, and Russia nevertheless insist that fishing be allowed in the MPAs. They state that some of the resistance may be due to the impact of other political factors such as tensions between Russia and the West over Crimea. Moreover, states recalcitrant to banning fishing in MPAs are, according to the authors, “reversing the normal burden of proof” by demanding proof that the fishing is harmful while in the past the assumption has been to disallow fishing unless data were presented to show that it would not be harmful. The article is in the October 14 issue (Vol. 353, Issue 6309, pp. 185-187).
Politics and Principles for Wildlife Management to Broaden Constituencies for wildlife conservation: Daniel Decker et al. in a Conservation Letters article titled “Governance Principles for Wildlife Conservation in the 21stCentury (July/August) 2016, 290-295, outline 10 principles based on public trust and good governance ideas that they argue are needed to counter trends that are hurting conservation such as continuing loss of habitat and less time and interest by the younger generation in outdoor activities. Among the principles is the need to incorporate “multiple and diverse perspectives” and make conservation for a “larger portion of citizens.” They cite a previous 2007 article by Cynthia Jacobson et al. in Journal of Wildlife Management that points to the need to develop alternative sources of funds for state wildlife agencies beyond the traditional fees from hunters and anglers. However, political opposition has often occurred on the part of hunters and anglers because they fear the loss of their control over wildlife management policies and its focusing on the priorities of hunters and anglers such as game species.
A New York Times article on disappearance of U.S. Caribou illustrates the complexity and politics of saving a species. U.S. caribou face multiple threats including predation by wolves. In Canada, thousands of wolves have been killed to save threatened caribou herds. But development, road-building, and snowmobiling are also important threats to U.S. caribou. Robbins describes how the USFWS proposed to set aside some 375,000 acres of critical habitat for caribou but opposition cut the set aside area to only 30,000 acres. Robbins reports that the conservative Pacific Legal Corporation (representing Idaho snowmobilers) has petitioned to have the U.S. caribou delisted from endangered species status because of the existence of similar caribou in Canada. Efforts to preserve and expand the U.S. caribou are being made by the Kootenai Native American tribe who question why the caribou are not supported like other charismatic species such as wolves and grizzlies. Similarly, a letter to Science Magazine (Sept. 30, 2016) by Gilbert Proulx and Roger Powell criticized the Alberta Canada to kill wolves, grizzlies and other predators and to fence caribou in order to protect them. They point out that oil and gas activity will be allowed within the fenced enclosure and that other threats to caribou such as habitat loss and fragmentation will continue to occur. These examples show that when there are multiple threats to species, wildlife predators such as wolves, grizzlies etc. receive the focus of attention rather than human causes such as human developments and their associated activities.The Robbins article is available at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/04/science/endangered-caribou-idaho-british-columbia.html
Legalization of Ivory Trade: Good or Bad for elephant conservation? An article in Science Magazine by Virginia Morelli discusses the long-running debate over whether allowing legal consumption of ivory will support or harm elephant conservation. The argument in favor of legal sales and consumption is that “producers” of elephants and ivory will have an incentive to preserve habitat and conserve elephants while if sales are made illegal, then they will have no incentives to protect elephants or their habitat. The abstract of the Morelli article is available at http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/09/legalizing-ivory-trade-wont-save-elephants-study-concludes
An article in Current Biology by David Lusseau tested hypotheses concerning the sales of ivory and concluded that the slow reproductive cycle of elephants would not support legal ivory trade. Rather, they argue the focus should be on reducing consumer demand. The Lusseau article abstract is available from http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2016.08.060
CITES Confiscations of Illicit Wildlife Trade: An article by Cruz and MacDonald (Nature Conservation, 15:47-63, 2016) analyzed available reports on illicit wildlife trade confiscations conducted under CITES by nation states. A couple of major conclusions were that the data were inadequate due to their “non-standardized” form, “insufficient” and “absent data.” A second finding was that the majority of confiscations concerned species that were not threatened with imminent extinction. This article reinforces the idea that CITES depends on actions of nation-states and thus the efficacy of its listings are no better than the national enforcement activities. Clearly, there are many “weak links” in the enforcement chain. A related Associated Press story by Christopher Torchia accessed from http://frontpage.pch.com/story/313671/global-efforts-against-ivory-traffickers-still-falling-short
reports that there is still an “upward trend” in the seizure of large-scale ivory poaching (i.e. over 220 pounds) and that occurrence of shipments of greater than half a ton indicates international criminal associates are involved. The article cites Wildlife Conservation Society official as stating that most countries have the capacity to go after wildlife poaching like they do after drug trafficking but generally limit their efforts to “low-scale” operators instead. Note that CITES has the ability to suspend wildlife trade with countries “that ignore its guidelines.” However, how often does this occur? The U.S. and other nations have a few times threatened trade sanctions on countries that violate conservation conventions.
During my research for the book, I noticed that there was no blog available for sharing informaton on wildlife conservation and thus I set up this blog to accomplish this purpose. Please share any informaticoncerning issues related to wildife policy and politics. I welcome feedback from users concerning this blog and website.