Science, my foot! Conservation Biology as Science

By Jim Beers
for eco-logic

June 19, 2003

Conservation biology is the sum of all the information we rely on to manage wildlife, wild plants, wetlands, forests, grasslands and all the other dimensions of these matters, from animal damage control, to harvesting fur, or managing whales. It is what "experts" tell us and our politicians in order to attain specific goals. "Experts" include federal and state bureaucrats, University professors, and the representatives of all the environmental/animal rights organizations who propagandize us while getting votes for "their" politicians and money for friendly bureaucrats.

Examples of conservation biology are the "fact" that wild turkeys "need" large expanses of undisturbed native woodlands. Another was that Canada geese nest in Canada and Alaska; migrate south in large flocks; and winter in the same places every winter. This was the unchallenged view of these two birds 30 years ago, before Canada geese were spread by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the northern U.S. where they now reside year around, and before turkeys became common in enormous farm fields in Illinois and Indiana, backyards in Nebraska, and started chasing mailmen around Boston suburbs. More recent "facts" endorsed as conservation biology, are called "Critical Habitat" (for Endangered Species) which require NEPA compliance for projects and developments, mitigation, in order to get "permission" for a project, and provide acquisition justifications for funding requests to buy more "needed" land each year.

Wildlife biology, forest biology, range biology, marine biology, freshwater fishery biology, etc. are really a mix of art, science, and human experience. For more than 100 years now, there has been a growing body of papers, reports, and theses about these matters. They are all based on history, up to the point they are written, and speculation about everything from that point into the future. Unlike chemistry or physics where you can cite a "law" based on past experiments, and therefore predict what will occur in the future. These natural resources (conservation) biology future reaction predictions, are nowhere near absolute. So what, you say?

Think of all the things we have been "required" to do over the past 30 years because some University professor or bureaucrat or environmental/animal rights activist stated it "must" be done, or XYZ will happen, or become extinct, or some other claim is made. Two days ago, I listened to a Senate hearing on Invasive Species legislation. I was reminded of how easy it is to lie, and spread disinformation in this area. If a Senator asks if there is any overlap between Endangered Species and Invasive Species, it is a snap for a bureaucrat to answer "no," in spite of the fact that a species (tamarisk) that had been run down as dangerous earlier in the hearing, is a preferred nest tree for endangered birds. If one Senator expresses concern for not disrupting rainbow trout fisheries, it is a snap to deny that the wording in the Act would include it, even though it unassailably does include rainbow trout. When yet another Senator expresses concern about escaped farm-raised Atlantic salmon in the Pacific Ocean, the same "experts" assure her that, of course, the Act would include them. And so it goes.

When wolves are being forced on rural communities, it is a snap to get an "expert" to say, or write, that predators do not depress prey populations like deer or moose or elk. When nutty Californians refuse to manage mountain lions that then start killing bighorn sheep in the Sierras, yet another "expert" is found to write an Endangered Species Recovery Plan for the now federally endangered sheep in the Sierras because "mountain lion predation threatens the sheep with extinction."

So when an experienced biologist claims that the best thing to do to maintain whales, forests, sheep, grass, owls, or whatever, is to determine the best numbers and distribution consistent with human society, he is shouted down; nature must take its course! When it is suggested that history has shown that public support and financial support for management programs is strongest, and most persistent when the fullest range of uses and revenue derivatives are generated annually; gasps are heard as wilderness, roadless, and all manner of non-use programs are screamed as the only alternative. When management and use programs are explained as benefiting the widest possible amalgam of plants and animals and human users; a lie like "invasive species reduce biodiversity" is swallowed whole, by everyone involved. Think about this last one - adding one or more species "reduces" the number of species?

Eighty years ago, the "habitat ploy" became the tactic of choice for biologists, and later for environmental/animal rights radicals, bent on remaking our entire society. Predicting how to maximize wild plants and animals in the face of a developing society is tough. You will make mistakes, no matter how much you study history. It is far easier, and more reasonable to the public and politicians, to say that only saving habitat will "save" whatever is the concern of the moment.

By fifty years ago, it was accepted that saving habitat meant government purchase of habitat. Thirty years ago, (how often have you heard that phrase?) environmental/animal rights radicals organized and became active financially and politically. They set about drafting and gaining passage of laws like the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Animal Welfare Act. These laws took historically state authorities over such things, and placed it where agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service evolved into surrogates for the agendas of these groups. In return for budget expansions and power accumulations, federal agencies and radical groups began stacking the agencies with activist employees committed to radical resource agendas.

The old "save the dirt" (i.e. habitat) mantra became the excuse to begin "taking" without compensation, which courts and judges refused to challenge because "experts" said species X would become extinct otherwise. Once they got away with it, without paying, it was like a kid who stole something and didn't get caught. Projects like Tellico Dam were brought to a halt, and the forced reintroduction of wolves became a snap. State fish and wildlife agencies, and University professors evolved in a matter of a few years, into grant applicants and enablers of whatever federal agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wanted. One need only recall that when a U.S. House of Representatives Committee and the General Accounting Office established that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had embezzled $45 to $65 million from the state agencies in a three-year period in the mid '90s, the reaction of the state agencies was a deafening silence, and a continuing "partnership" with the very federal bureaucrats who stole the money from them!

The damaging effects of all this far exceed all this natural resource mischief from one Administration to the next. The real and enduring nature of sucking more and more power and authority from state governments to the federal government is perhaps the greatest danger this nation has ever faced. We stood up to communist hegemony and Nazi racism. We endured depression, and a Civil War with a momentous carnage. This silent shift of power to the federal government is condoned and ignored as grants and imaginary benefits are touted.

Soon we will be much more like the two nations most like us in the rest of the world. England's Parliament is the power point that outlaws foxhunting and guns throughout the nation. Canada's Prime Minister (through "his" Parliament) registers rifles and shotguns throughout that nation. Our Constitution guarantees us rights, unlike Canada or England. Our Constitution gave specific authorities to the central government and placed everything else under state governments, unlike those two nations. Our Constitution made three equally powerful branches of the central government, unlike those two nations. Yet we are becoming more like them, as they become more like European and South American governments, where a family or personality rules everything over everyone.

This trend is being accelerated by these environmental/animal rights authorities in Washington, where non-government organizations want them so that they can control them, and thereby, the citizens. Remember that much of the rationale (in hearings about new laws, court testimony by "experts", government documents, and media publications) is based on mere speculation. Speculation driven by the self-interest or agendas of those doing the speculating, under the guise of "science." Do not be afraid to challenge these "experts" and to place your knowledge and experience up against them. Whether it is before a judge or to your politician, tell them what you know to be true, and don't let anyone dismiss what you know, because some "expert" denies reality. Too much depends on it!


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