The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation
The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is a set of principles that, collectively applied, has led to the form, function, and successes of wildlife conservation and management in the United States and Canada. This technical review documents the history and development of these principles, and evaluates current and potential future challenges to their application. Describing the Model as North American is done in a conceptual, not a geographical, context. Wildlife conservation and management in Mexico developed at a different time and under different circumstances than in the U.S. and Canada. The latter two were hand in hand. The history, development, and status of wildlife conservation and management in Mexico are outlined separately as part of this review.
It is not the intent or purpose of this review to revise, modify, or otherwise alter what has heretofore been put forward as the Model. Indeed, the Model itself is not a monolith carved in stone; it is a means for us to understand, evaluate, and celebrate how conservation has been achieved in the U.S. and Canada, and to assess whether we are prepared to address challenges that lay ahead. Simply adding to, deleting, or modifying the existing principles will not in itself advance conservation. Understanding the evidentiary basis for the principles is essential to preventing their erosion, and necessary for the conceptual thinking required to anticipate future challenges. A brief summary of some of the challenges and concerns follows:
- Wildlife resources are a public trust. Challenges include (1) inappropriate claims of ownership of wildlife; (2) unregulated commercial sale of live wildlife; (3) prohibitions or unreasonable restrictions on access to and use of wildlife; and (4) a value system endorsing an animal-rights doctrine and consequently antithetical to the premise of public ownership of wildlife.
- Markets for game are eliminated. Commercial trade exists for reptiles, amphibians, and fish. In addition, some game species are actively traded. A robust market for access to wildlife occurring across the country exists in the form of leases, reserved permits, and shooting preserves.
- Allocation of wildlife is by law. Application and enforcement of laws to all taxa are inconsistent. Although state authority over the allocation of the take of resident game species is well defined, county, local, or housing- development ordinances may effectively supersede state authority. Decisions on land use, even on public lands, indirectly impact allocation of wildlife due to land use changes associated with land development.
- Wildlife can be killed only for a legitimate purpose. Take of certain species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians does not correspond to traditionally accepted notions of legitimate use.
- Wildlife is considered an international resource. Many positive agreements and cooperative efforts have been established among the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and other nations for conserving wildlife. Many more species need consideration. Restrictive permitting procedures, although designed to protect wildlife resources, inhibit trans-border collaborations. Construction of a wall to prevent illegal immigration from Mexico to the U.S. will have negative effects on trans-border wildlife movements and interactions.
- Science is the proper tool to discharge wildlife policy. Wildlife management appears to be increasingly politicized. The rapid turnover rate of state agency directors, the makeup of boards and commissions, the organizational structure of some agencies, and examples of politics meddling in science have challenged the science foundation.
- Democracy of hunting is standard. Reduction in, and access to, huntable lands compromise the principle of egalitarianism in hunting opportunity. Restrictive firearms legislation can act as a barrier hindering participation. To help address these challenges, this review presents several recommendations. These are offered as actions deemed necessary to ensure relevancy of the Model in the future.