The Sports Coalition is not unitary: Battles within the Fishing Coalition
Two of the frameworks that I use to explain wildlife politics in my book involve interest group theory and the advocacy coalition framework (ACF). The interest group approach was heavily employed by political scientists to explain how some interest groups were able to dominate policymaking in certain substantive areas including those affecting wildlife such as grazing on Federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. For many years, ranchers dominated these policies and were able to gain easy access for their livestock at very low costs and this activity affected wildlife such as wolves that were shot when they preyed upon the livestock as well as depleting grasslands they occupied—they also congregated around riparian areas that other wildlife needed. Interest group theory viewed policy in such areas as a result of a competition in which those groups with the best resources (e.g., access, numbers, financial) were able to win policies favorable to them. With the rise of the environmental movement, the ranchers and extractive industries faced competition from groups that had opposing goals and thus the “iron triangle” was weakened. The iron triangle refers to the fact that interest groups often dominated due to their strong influence over government agencies that managed land affecting wildlife such as BLM and that congressional committees also were dominated by representatives and senators closely aligned with them. With the growth of environmental movements and other relevant interests (e.g., animal rights organizations), the dominance of interest groups became less total and was more complex, often affected by other factors (e.g., media coverage) and the ACF approach views policy as also the outcome of competition among coalitions of interest groups that often had opposing interests. In my book, I discuss how there is a “sports” grouping composed of hunters, anglers, and others interested in recreational uses of wildlife that can play a key role in determining the outcomes of wildlife policymaking. The sports group unlike the rancher-extractive industry and environmental groups can sometime align themselves with the rancher-extractive industry coalition on issues such as hunting of predators like wolves but align themselves with the environmental coalition when it involves issues such as proposals for Federal government to give public lands over to state control.
But an additional point that I discuss in the book is that the coalition can often disagree among themselves in taking policy positions. Historically, for example, the hunting coalition has been fractured between wealthy hunters who hunt purely for sport and poorer subsistence hunters who hunt for food or to sell their kills for their earnings. Indeed, the establishment of regulations such as hunting seasons was established primarily due to the pressure from groups representing the elite hunting interests. Likewise, in the environmental coalition, there is often disagreement between ecologically-focused environmentalists concerned with maintaining populations species and who welcome and sometimes encourage hunting while animal-right groups are attached to individual wildlife do not tolerate consumptive uses of wildlife.
In my book, I discuss how the “angling” group also can have internal differences especially with differences between sports angles and the commercial fishing industry. Recently, an article appeared in Fish and Fisheries journal (Vol. 18, pp. 94-104) by Philip Loring titled “The political ecology of gear bans in two fisheries: Florida’s net ban and Alaska’s Salmon wars. For me, useful part of the article is the politics of fishing—how commercial fishers (in these two cases, they appear or argued to be small families-outfits—not the big ocean fishing industry) are in battle with sports fishers (who won out in the Florida case but not in the Alaska case). The author thinks the commercial fishers in Florida were inequitably treated and argues that the ban on fishing gear (fixed nets) had undesirable outcomes. In Alaska, the outcome was different mainly due to the Alaskan Constitution which gives rights to fishers. The author seems to argue (see below) that bans should not be done unless can be proven necessary—he uses the term precautionary approach to mean that harm to fishers must be avoided rather than protection of fishing populations. The ideas of political ecology and neoliberal are referenced in the article but I don’t find them very useful in providing insight into the dynamics of the cases. It seems to me that the two cases fits quite well into the Advocacy Coalition Framework because the winner was the group that could marshal the best resources and win over other groups such as the media but it also is affected by the institutional framework (the Alaskan Constitution in this case). Nevertheless, the article is useful for differentiating anglers into groups and thus the complexity of sports interest group(s). Loring’s article is available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/faf.12169/full
Killing to Protect Endangered Species: Legal and Effective, and Necessary?
An article by Mogomotsi & Madigele in SA Crime Quarterly (June 2017, p. 52-59) raises a very relevant moral and empirical argument in favor of “Shooting to Kill” poachers of rhinos. The argument cites the ineffectiveness of alternatives to preserving rhinos such as “market-oriented” approaches such as the sale of the horn or non-lethal measure such as “arrests.” The article cites empirical data that show these alternatives have been ineffective in deterring rhino poaching. By way of contrast, it shows that poaching of Botswana rhinos has 1.12% of African rhinos but only experienced 0.1% of rhino mortalities due to poaching compared to South Africa (where there is no shoot-to-kill policy) which had 79.32% of rhinos but 89.6% of mortalities. It argues that the main purpose of the policy is to deter poaching and that it has been effective. It cites data that arrests for poaching have risen in South Africa but poaching has continued—most arrested get off and those that are convicted are bottom level poachers. The authors argue that only shoot-to-kill or “improving detection of poaching and illegal trade” work. It cites the additional example of Zimbabwe’s instituting a shoot-to-kill policy to protect elephants in the 1980s as another example that worked. The article also discusses and defends the morality of shoot-to-kill policies for preserving endangered species such as rhinos. It acknowledges the argument of Roderick P. Neumann in a 2004 Political Geography article that sharply critiqued shoot-to-kill policies for “humanizing wild animals” and “denigrating poachers” who are merely “impoverished peasants” rather than the wealthy people running the trade and the wealthy clients who purchase the horn. However, the authors reply is that “militarization” should be implemented with “complementary alternatives” but that the parks with rhinos are, in effect, “war zones” and thus it is appropriate to principles of war. I discuss such ethical questions in several chapters of my book--Chapter 9 is devoted entirely to value issues. My own view is that there are now billions of humans in the world who have refashioned the Earth to totally dominate their environment leaving small patches for species such as rhinos (or elephants, etc.) When there are billions of people who consume so much of nature’s resources, is there not some point where the value of non-human lives exceeds those involved in killing endangered species if this killing will deter and thus preserve the endangered species? The “shoot to kill article” is available at http://journals.assaf.org.za/sacq/article/viewFile/1787/2601
Ecotourism, Negative Charisma, and Preservation of Predators: The Case of South American Jaguars & the anti-depredation approach.
Ecotourism, Negative Charisma, and Preservation of Predators: The Case of South American Jaguars & the anti-depredation approach.
An article by Tortato et al. in Global Ecology and Conservation journal (July 2017) provides an assessment of the value of jaguar tourism in the Brazilian Pantanal. Jaguar tourism in the area is relatively recent but apparently is growing—the area is cited by the authors as “the most important wildlife tourism epicenter in Latin America” and, they state, comparable to parks in Africa. However, illegal hunting is “the main threat” to the jaguar population. The article is based on interviews with owners of 7 lodges based on jaguar tourism and calculates the profits to these lodges as being 56 times as great as the cost of the livestock the jaguars plunder. Thus they propose that those profiting from ecotourism could reimburse the ranchers losing livestock with plenty of profits to spare. They cite survey data that many tourists would be willing to pay extra money to support the compensation scheme. However, they also point out that differentiation should be made between those ranchers that take “anti-depredation measures” so that those adopting preventive steps should be reimbursed at a higher rate for their losses. In my Wildlife Politics book (see Chapter 5 and elsewhere), I discuss compensation schemes used in the U.S. (once the Defenders of Wildlife group was renowned for their reimbursements for losses due to wolves) and elsewhere and, the curious finding was that many ranchers even those who accepted payments disliked the system for various reasons—often they claimed that payments were beset by red tape, took too long, and did not reimburse them for all of their losses—only a small portion could be verified. The basic movement has been to tie the payments to preventive measures as this article proposes for jaguars in South America. Unfortunately, losses to ranchers due to predators seems to engender a resentment and hatred in many of them that goes beyond rational financial calculations but represents what I characterize in my book as “negative charisma.” I use the term negative charisma to refer to the deeply emotional, non-rational hatred of wildlife that is felt by ranchers and others (e.g., hunters who see them as competitors) that goes beyond rationality. Indeed, the theme of my Wildlife Politics book is that wildlife politics results from the fact that a large portion of humanity has strong emotional attachments to wildlife, both positive and negative, that often emerges into political controversy throughout the world. The jaguar article is available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2351989417300501
Tribal Communities Living in Wildlife Reserves: Help or Hindrance to protecting wildlife like Tigers?
Tribal Communities Living in Wildlife Reserves: Help or Hindrance to protecting wildlife like Tigers? This month’s Sierra Magazine contains an article by Michael Benanav titled “The Tiger Watchers” that discusses an ongoing debate over whether natives living in wildlife reserves (in this case, tiger reserves in India) are a help or hindrance to protecting species. Benanav discusses his talks with natives who live in or near Biligiri Rangaswamy Tiger (BRT) Reserve in India. The tribal community says that the tigers “are holy animals” and that they “never kill them” but can coexist with them. Indeed, the regional Forest Department uses some of them as “tiger watchers” who patrol the forest and try to assist in the prevention of poaching of tigers. The government of India has been involved in tiger conservation since 1972 when the “Wildlife Protection Act” was passed that expanded tiger sanctuaries a few to now more than 50. This expansion was accompanied by eviction of natives living in these areas—more than a million people. The main causes of the threats to tiger were habitat loss (forest) and hunting. However, after 2000, some conservationists began to become concerned with the rights of the evictees and a new law, the Forest Rights Act of 2006, was passed that “guarantees the right of traditional forest dwellers to live on and use the lands” they had traditionally occupied and an amendment was passed that gave people protection from eviction, though Benanav says that the forest government are run by Indian states—not the national government and that actual policy and implementation varies by the state. Tribal rightists and their supporters claim that the natives help to prevent poaching. Indeed, they point to the increase in BRT reserve tiger numbers from 35 to 68 as evidence that they can coexist if not help preserve tiger populations. In other reserves, the tiger populations have remain largely static. The contrary viewpoint is argued by the head of the Wildlife Conservation Society India Program, Dr. Ullas Karanth, who states that the recovery and growth of tiger populations in BRT has been due to “regulation” and enforcement of hunting bans. He states that adult female tigers require 40 miles of territory and thus it is impossible to have people nearby “raising cattle, doing agriculture and hunting the prey species.” He also argues that these families will want “electricity, clean drinking water, a decent house, and a bus to …take their kids to a nearby school” and thus over the long term, the desires of these natives will be incompatible with their living in a protected reserve for tigers. The debate reminds me of the issues over whether humans should engage in controlled ivory-rhino horn-whale consummatory uses—some logical arguments can be made in favor of these activities helping to preserve wildlife species but there are contrary views and data. Perhaps “time will tell” so that with inevitable population growth and development around protected areas in India and other countries which argument has truth on its side. The article by Benanav is available at: http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2017-4-july-august/feature/can-tribes-and-tigers-coexist-indias-nature-reserves
Corruption and Wildlife in Africa and other Third World Countries: Can It Be Dealt With?
Recently, I read John Hanks’s book, Operation Lock and the War on Rhino Poaching (Cape Town: Penguin Books, 2015). Hanks has worked on the problem of rhino and other types of poaching in Africa for many years including for the World Wildlife Federation and other organizations. The major point of his book that it is difficult if not impossible to deal effectively with rhino poaching due to corruption of government officials and conversation “police.” He provides many examples of official corruption. For example, in discussing Chinese involvement in poaching, he describes how:
“A conscientious police officer dutifully logged the allegations in a police docket, which vanished from the office of the attorney-general. The police superintendent in charge of the investigation was transferred to a remote rural post, and the Chinese national was released.” (p. 219).
He describes how Britain suspended financial aid to Uganda over corruption involving the Prime Minister’s office. Hanks had interactions with many of the African leaders over many years but, other than Kenneth Kaunda, he found no one that had a commitment to wildlife but rather most of them “treated the national fiscus” as if it were their personal funds. They lack the political will to keep hands off the judicial system and allow poachers to be punished. He notes that many of the rangers who are assigned to protect wildlife and prevent poaching have small salaries and must risk their lives and thus there is a strong incentive for them to be bought by poachers—the profits for rhino horn are extraordinary. In my book, I detail in Chapter 8 how many community-based natural resource programs have been beset by problems including corruption with the national government often refusing to decentralize funds to local governments. I note that Namibia has been one of the relative success stories and it is notably high in transparency which is lacking (as Hanks notes too) in many “sub-Saharan” countries.
The problem is that there are no easy solutions. Hanks points out that western conservationists who look down on the corruption and take a haughty view of corrupt Africans often elevate “animal welfare over human welfare” which, Hanks, says, is likely to “breed resentment and exacerbate underlying drivers of poaching” (p. 2098-210). He argues that if western conservationists want to “assume ownership of the world’s biodiversity,” that that will be a very expensive proposition. Hanks’ solution is to allow trade in rhino horn, ivory and other wildlife products in a manner where the trade can be policed so that only wildlife taken legally is allowed—the profits from this trade can be taxed to provide benefits to reward these countries and their inhabitants for preserving biodiversity. In my book, I discuss this issue in detail in Ch.8—it is very contentious and difficult to accomplish—one area of apparent success is crocodile farming but assuring that animal products have been taken is challenging—many countries such as Laos willingly provide “papers” for illegally taken animal “products.”
An article by Dulvy et al. in Current Biology (June 5, 2017) describes similar challenges in marine biodiversity concerning the preservation of threatened shark populations. They point out that “40 percent of shark catch is done by nations that rank “the lowest on Human Development Indices” including Indonesia, Pakistan, Yemen, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Senegal. Thus Dulcy et al. admit that it is “difficult for governments facing extreme poverty and food insecurity” to enforce shark conservation and western nations are “reluctant to press” these governments because they are aware of the difficulties. The authors go on to say that action on the part of these government would require a “steep increase in aid relief.” NGOs and several western European countries have funded conservation efforts in many third countries and I describe some of these in Ch. 7 of my book. Sometimes an individual leader such as Indira Gandhi in India and Frei in Chile has had a major impact on wildlife conservation and I describe these unusual circumstances in my book but there is return to the status quo after they depart—in India’s case, the reversal was done under Gandhi’s son. Native wildlife conservation forces do exist in these countries as I discuss in my book but they are nowhere near powerful enough to battle forces that gain great profit from wildlife. Thus outside conservation funding efforts would have to be greatly expanded and/or would require major increases in aid from the U.S. and other western governments to be able to make a big change in the situation. I am not sure about the politics of western European countries but the likelihood of the Trump Administration providing increases in wildlife conservation is zero—indeed, the opposite is likely. Sorry to end this discussion on a negative note but that’s the way I read the current tea leaves of wildlife conservation.
The World is going to Hell: The inexorable forces of humanity are overwhelming wildlife. In my Wildlife Politics book's final chapter, I discuss how there are two competing themes in the U.S. wildlife conservation movement--one of optimism by the "new conservationists" and one of pessimism by more traditional conservationists. A major reason for the emphasis on optimism is that a purely gloomy outlook is not likely to engender enthusiasm and attract new followers to the conservation movement and I certainly agree with this idea. However, as I continue to follow developments reporting the status of wildlife in the world, I find it hard to maintain this optimism. Recently on Sunday in May, I read reviews of the following books in the New York Times book review: (1) Life and Death Along the Colorado River David Owen. May 28 2017 (2) THE DEATH AND LIFE OF THE GREAT LAKES by Dan Egan, and (3) THE GULF
The Making of an American Sea by Jack E. Davis. I was struck by common themes of the books that humanity has transformed nature to its wants but in the process is endangering other wildlife and created problems that appear insoluble—in other words, the Earth is going to hell. This resonated with other notable articles that I will cite below that contribute to a pessimistic assessment of the prospects for wildlife conservation. I know that there are some significant positive developments (which I will cite below too) but overall, the seriousness of the problems makes it hard for me to understand why these environmental-conservation issues are not more visible in politics and why the need to deal with them does not have a higher priority for humans? In general, the vast majority of people support efforts to maintain or improve the environment according to all surveys but unfortunately, the priority given to conservation-environmental issues so low that there is no powerful political movement to give top priority to them. I do not see any solution to these problems other than massive disasters that make headlines.
Owen’s book, Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River, has very little to say about wildlife issues directly—the only discussion include short sections on invasive species that are blocking a dam’s intake gratings and the Salton Sea lake in California that is much more salty than the oceans and has killed many fish and birds species that use it. However, the description of the huge importance of water rights demonstrates that access to and usage of water is all important—to sustain populations, development, and agriculture. He shows how the “compact” that allocates water from the Colorado River is, in a sense, nonsensical since it gives water rights that don’t add up---there is not nearly enough water for promised water to be taken by states as promised in the compact. However, Owens notes that the compact has endured because states fail to push for their full rights because they know if they did, the entire compact and hence water allocation system would break down and could make matters worse. The book does not offer any solutions. It describes how desalination is very expensive and requires great energy sources to support it. If desalination is implemented, it will allow development in environmentally disastrous places (note: DuBai is one place that is established on basis of desalination and is able to do so because of its fossil fuels.) He notes that organic vegetables use especially heavy amounts of water and rely on manure. He characterizes cloud seeding as akin to moving money from “one pocket to another.” He argues that “managing growth” such as placing limits on development in urban areas would simply result in more sprawl and that “densely populated cities” make “wild places possible.” He studies other “solutions” such as seeding clouds and desalination but none of them are likely to work. He points out that western states and the Federal government in trying to deal with the situation face a “Catch 22” type of conundrum—the formal compact allocates far more water to various states and users than can be provided” and if they pushed for their “full legal rights” of water, the entire compact would be blown-up and matters could be worse. He points out that western states hate the Federal government but without investment of Federal government, there would be even less water to fight over.
So, why talk about this book that does not directly to do with wildlife? Protections for endangered fish such as smelt in California has already drawn the enmity of the Wall Street Journal and farmers but so far these conflicts have been relatively small scale. Reading this book made me realize that there will be inevitably less water for wildlife and threatened species in the future. The Endangered Species Act is likely to be emasculated so that any valuable resource like water will no longer be diverted to save endangered species and water will become more problematic for all species. Humans already have settled around areas with water—as I detail in my Wildlife Politics book, protected areas for animals have been largely relegated to areas with little water, lots of rocks, and generally unproductive land. Wildlife interests are not going to prevail against the powerful array of human interests that demand water. The one long-term palliative (I am sure there are weaknesses and limitations to it too) that could moderate the problem from my perspective is population control—fewer humans or stabilizing population would at least limit demands for more water and more development.
Dan Egan’s book on the Great Lakes discusses the problem of invasive species that have been caused by humanity via ships referred to as salties: “It would be hard to design a better invasive species delivery system than the Great Lakes overseas freighter. The vessels pick up ballast water at a foreign port to balance less-than-full cargo loads” (xv). The invasive species brought in include zebra and quagga mussels, alewives, and lampreys. Anglers are one of the groups that have contributed in a major way to the problem—they have encouraged the introduction of a “desirable” alien species to the lake, salmon, which require the invasive alewives—unfortunately, the alewives consume the phytoplankton in the lakes and thus harm other species such as native lake trout. The Great Lake states and the Federal government have been trying to maintain enough alewives to support chinook salmon but not so many as to destroy lake trout and the book cites a USFWS as admitting that he did not know if this is possible. The book contends that the salties (ocean ships) could be replaced by trains but the shipping industry has vetoed this option. As with the Colorado River, the most serious problems are “self-inflicted” by humanity and anglers, a group that theoretically belongs to the conservation coalition, is one of the causes.
Jack E. Davis’s book, “The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea” reveals how the area has become the major source for oil with more than 180 thousand wells and associated infrastructure such as pipelines that have “denuded” the area of its “wetlands and mangrove forests” that, along with massive agricultural runoff, have created “dead zones” in the Gulf and stopped nature from depositing its sediment in the ocean. The book illustrates the theme of conflict between scientists and the perceptions of interested parties over the numbers of fish that exist—I discuss how similar disagreements exist in many cases in Chapter 2 of my book. Fishermen have lauded the use of old oil rigs as magnets for red snapper which they are catching in large numbers but Davis cites an expert as stating that the “easy pickings” around the rigs belies the fact that actually their numbers have “plunged by 97 percent” since the end of World War II and that there are high levels of mercury in the areas. There are also common perception that shrimp and menhaden populations are healthy and large but the book cites evidence from experts that the shrimp numbers are likely to be temporary and that menhaden populations have actually suffered major declines which affects other species. Yet the politics of the region have been little affected by these threats—the oil and gas industry reign supreme. Davis does cite one case where a pro-business newspaper did welcome the return of pelicans to the area due to the banning of DDT but they did this because nature was good for humans and visitors to the area.
An article reported by John C. Cannon summarizes studies that show that “60 percent of primates are sliding toward extinction at https://news.mongabay.com/2017/01/running-out-of-time-60-percent-of-primates-sliding-toward-extinction/ The threats to apes affects all continents where they exist--South America, Africa, and Asia. Analysis of the data shows that loss of tree cover and fragmentation of habitat are the primary cause. In Southeast Asia, the expansion of palm oil plantations is a direct cause. Overall, it is the “expansion of agriculture” that has pushed species such as “Yunan snub-nosed monkey” in China to “near extinction.” Deforestation and expansion of agriculture seem to me to inexorable forces that meet demands for food and the needs of humans near areas and conservationists have a hard time with the ethics of restricting these forces that affect the fortunes of the poor.
An article in the New York Times by Austin Ramzy describes how isolated islands in the South Pacific have been inundated by human trash even though humanity does not live in or visit the islands is available at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/world/australia/henderson-island-plastic-debris-south-pacific.html?mcubz=2&_r=0
Nevertheless, humanity’s trash affects the wildlife such as turtles becoming tangled in fishing nets and crabs using plastic containers “for shelter.” Other articles have shown that tiny plastic pieces are consumed by marine life with potentially harmful effects. As with deforestation and agricultural expansion, the spread of humanity’s effects due to dissemination of its trash is inexorable and will certainly increase in the future.
Most of the focus on threats to wildlife has been on mammals and certain species of marine animals. However, a Science magazine article by Gretchen Vogel summarizes evidence that there has been a major decrease in insects with an article titled “Where have all the insects gone”” (Science, May 12, 2017, Vol. 356, Issue 6338). Research has focused on Germany and England. There are variations—speculation is that the variation may be due to the fact some areas may have already experienced declines. Causes include habitat loss such as less plant diversity. Another cause is the use of insecticides like neonicotinoids that have become popular. Some insects adapt to the insecticides like aphids but others do not. The loss of insects affects wildlife such as birds that depend on them and the article suggests insect declines have played a significant role in the drop in populations of birds such as swifts and larks. It is hard to get humanity to act to save insects unless they are “charismatic” like the monarch. As I reported in a previous blog, Michael McCarthy’s “The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy" documents huge declines in butterflies and other species mostly due to humans. As I argued, humans sometimes become conscious about individual species (e.g., recent concern about sharks and monarchs), but the need to retain entire ecosystems is a much more difficult concept to “sell” to humanity and the changed consciousness does not match up against the powerful and universal forces threatening wildlife.
The Supremacy of Federal Wildlife Management over States in the Era of Trump: Martin Nie et al. have published an important paper titled “Fish and Wildlife Management on Federal Lands: Debunking State Supremacy” that is available at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2980807
The paper is relevant because over the past 40 years, there have emerged several conflicts over the role of the Federal government versus state governments in wildlife management on Federally-owned lands including national parks, Federal wildlife areas, national monuments, Federally-owned forests, Federal wilderness areas, and lands run by the Bureau of Land Management. They systematically study cases in which states (and others) argue that they (the states) should exercise control over wildlife in these areas based on a number of ideas including the Geer v. Connecticut case (that discussed states ownership as a “trust for the benefit of the people” and 10th Amendment (that gives to states powers not delegated to the U.S. by the Constitution.”) Nie et al. demonstrate through a careful review of relevant court cases that the that state responsibilities “are subordinate to the federal government” concerning federal lands. Concerning the 10th Amendment, Nie et al. prove that this “amendment states but a truism that all is retained which has not been surrendered” and again review court cases to show that in conflicts involving claims by states of powers due to the 10th Amendment, in most cases the Federal government has prevailed. The Association of (state) Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) has cited the “North American Model of wildlife conservation” to support the idea that states should dominate wildlife conservation even on Federal lands and, indeed, they are pushing for a revision of Federal land laws that would establish state dominance over wildlife management on Federal lands in a manner that Nie et al. say is “a fundamental reinterpretation of existing wildlife law.” The position of the AFWA is based on the presumption that support of hunting and angling are the primary purpose of wildlife management—the article brings out how these interests have strongly dominated most state wildlife agencies and have been buttressed by the reliance of these state agencies on revenue from hunting and fishing licenses. I devote an entire chapter (10) to a discussion of the politics of hunting and its impact on wildlife in my book. Nie et al. point out that ‘non-game” aspects of wildlife management have been ignored by the so-called North American Model. One point not discussed by Nie et al. is that increasingly states are now supporting the privatization of hunting as well as passing laws (often constitutional amendments to state constitutions) that protect hunting and many states have done little for non-game wildlife. The main point that the article makes is that Supreme Court cases clearly show that states are subordinate to the Federal government when there is a conflict between Federal and state wildlife management policies concerning Federal lands.
However, the article also shows that the Federal government and the agencies that have responsibilities for wildlife management (e.g., USFWS, BLM, National Park Service) have often not been forceful in asserting Federal dominance—they are often silent or sometimes overt in allowing states to run roughshod over wildlife conservation goals. They cite several cases such as the refusal of federal agencies “to apply federal regulations to private holdings” in the Grand Teton National Park, that USFWS allowed Idaho to hire to kill packs of wolves in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness (to increase the size of elk herds), and annual “predator killing contests on Federal lands.” They note that “rare is the situation where a federal agency challenges state interests and often “send mixed message” about its authority over wildlife. In several chapters in my book (especially Ch. 3 on Implementation issues but also in Ch. 6 on the ESA) I discuss and illustrate the problem of the political weakness of the USFWS and the underlying reasons for it. The constituency for “wildlife preservation” includes wildlife (who can’t speak for themselves) and environmental-conservation-animal rights organizations. These latter groups have significant resources but their political pull is small compared to the coalition of interests that often want to undercut wildlife conservation including developers, ranchers, hunters, and extractive industries. Although national polls often show strong majority support for policy positons favoring wildlife conservation, this general preference for wildlife conservation is relatively weak compared to the power of the selfish interests in the opposing coalition. Thus, when push comes to shove, the interests opposed to wildlife conservation dominate policies in many states, especially in western states where most Federal lands exist. Thus, for example, the USFWS is known as being a “meek” agency with good reason—there have been strong conservative support for cutting back on wildlife conservation laws (especially the Endangered Species Act) that have been used to preserve wildlife and USFWS and Interior Department officials have been engaged in trying to assuage the opposing coalition for 25 years including during the Clinton and Obama Administratons. Indeed, the major victories for the preservation of wildlife have often come through Supreme Court decisions that have directed Federal (and state) agencies to adhere to the ESA and other wildlife conservation legislation. This is a major reason why Republicans are in the process of proposals to weaken the ESA and other Federal laws protecting wildlife.
The Nie article does not deal with the new threat to the whole issue: the Trump Administration now controls wildlife agencies. Recently, for example, Secretary of Interior Zinke has pushed for the extreme cutting back of the Bears Ears Monument and Congress has voted to allow Alaska to kill denning bears and wolves in Federal wildlife areas. So now there is not likely to be conflict between Federal and state agencies over wildlife conservation—the Feds as well as states will be firmly in the camp that will undercut wildlife protections when they conflict with the interests of extractive industries, developers, ranchers, and hunters. The only line of resistance left will be the Federal Courts but when the ESA is diluted, this last resort will also be ineffective.
Southeast Asian Farms and the United States: What Can Be Done? A New York Times article by Rachel Nuwer details the problems of “animal farms” in Southeast Asia that represent a threat to tigers, bears, and other species. These “farms” are often presented as “zoos” or as a means of preserving “wild” tigers and bears by meeting demands from the “farmed” animals. But the article (and much other research) challenges this assertion for two major reasons. First, despite their argument that many of these animals (including reptiles) have been raised on the farms, there is strong evidence that actually a large percentage if not a big majority have been captured in the wild. Moreover, wild populations of tigers have vanished ort declined to tiny numbers despite the existence of these farms. Secondly, the article cites experts contention that the existence of these “farms” legitimizes the illegal sale of tigers and other wildlife parts since it allows illegal traffickers to claim that the animal parts are drawn from legal farm-raised populations. Moreover, the article cites strong evidence that many of the Southeast Asian governments such as Laos do not have the capability (and also the desire due to the political connections of the traffickers) to manage these “legal” farms. I discuss these issues in much more detail in Chapters 7 & 8 of my wildlife politics book. At some of the farms, food and products from endangered species are “offered”: “…restaurants…still offered expensive plates of bear paw, pangolin (an endangered scaly mammal) and sautéed tiger meat, which can be paired with tiger wine, a grain-based concoction in which the cats’ penises, bones or entire skeletons are soaked for months. The article has several pictures of wildlife living on the farms. Though the article focuses on Southeast Asia, it concludes with the fact that though the United States has tried to encourage stopping the illegal activities and discourage the bad effects of these “farms,” the U.S. has a problem itself: It is available as follows: “An estimated 5,000 tigers are held in backyards, petting zoos and even truck stops across the United States.” Thus the Southeast Asian countries can respond to the U.S. “finger pointing” by arguing we are hypocrites. Check out the article and the accompanying photos at: Rachel Nuwer. Animal Farms in Southeast Asia Fuel an Illegal Trade in Rare Wildlife. New York Times, June 5, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/05/science/animal-farms-southeast-asia-endangered-animals.html
Is Ecotourism a worse threat to Environment than grazing and industry development? One of the greatest hopes of people like me hoping that wildlife conservation efforts can be more politically successful in the future is that ecotourism can convert people to supporters of conservation but also create supporters of those who live near the tourism locations due to the economic benefits of tourism. But the results of this so far have been disappointing—in the western states of the U.S., ranchers and extractive industries as well as hunters continue to dominate policymaking making me wonder when, if ever, the “new West” will become politically potent? Moreover, there is substantial evidence that tourism can harm wildlife especially when there are no controls over it but even when there are relatively small encounters. I detail the positive and problematic aspects of ecotourism's effects on wildlife in Ch. 11 of my Wildlife Politics book. Jim Stiles of High Country News contributed an editorial piece (not part of HCN’s official policy) that questions the conversion of Bears Ears to monument status. His view is not based, of course, on the harm to industry and ranchers but the bad effects of “runaway tourism” that brings crowds so large that the Arches National Park was overwhelmed. He suggests avoiding building of “extravagant visitor centers” and concentrate on enforcement of “the archaeological protection” rules. He warns that otherwise the “monument designation” may destroy the “very qualities its supporters want to protect.” My own response is that the kinds of rules that he sees as an alternative to monuments should be able to be implemented for monuments too? Do monuments have to mean that “industrial strength tourism” will be welcome? Check out the Stiles article at: Jim Stiles. How environmentalists could do more for Bears Ears
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.