February 17, 2006

Accounting for Endangered Species

In the Washington Post today, an ominous headline for endangered species: "The True Cost of Protection?"

Dust off your sense of outrage, fellow taxpaying Americans, because as the article informs us, protecting endangered species cost $1.4 billion in 2004. So magnificent is that figure that the writer sneeringly suggests that king salmon are so called because recovering them cost the princely sum of $160 million in '04. By the tenor of the piece we are supposed to feel that spending $5 million on gray wolves is magnanimous, while spending $11,000 on a rare species of beetle is the height of absurdity.

What's truly outrageous is the intimation that somehow the species themselves are to blame for their costly predicament. Like lazy welfare queens, these imperiled animals should pony up. Never mind that wild Columbia River king salmon are perhaps 1 percent of historical abundance because a welter of industries were given free rein to destroy them. Clearcuts, dams, voracious fisheries, nuclear plants, pesticides... the list of culprits is long and it is to them that the $160 million bill should be assessed. The cost is not of "protection" as the writer asserts, it is instead the cost of heedlessly trampling ecosystems.

It's apropos that the headline editor added a question mark because, in truth, none of the dollar figures cited in the article actually amount to the "true cost" of protection. Like a blinkered accountant tallying only expenses but not revenues, the article utterly fails to mention any of the monetary benefits of species recovery. (And I won't even mention the inestimable non-monetary ones). Study the "costs" of protection for a moment and you'll see that the figures just don't add.

In the Yellowstone region, University of Montana economists have estimated that gray wolves have generated $23 million dollars in tourism to gateway towns. Add to that the many millions of dollars in central Idaho and the Upper Midwest, where gray wolves are also rebounding, and it turns out that wolves not only pay for themselves, they pick up the tab for those good-for-nothing salamanders, and still return a hefty dividend to taxpayers.

In Idaho, fully functioning sport salmon fisheries have been valued as high as $544 million per year. Though that estimate is disputed, it's for just one year for one of the several states where that $160 million was spent in 2004 to assist king salmon.

I could go on and on. The point is, the "true cost" of endangered species protection is much lower than the greenbacks that the US Fish & Wildlife Service lays out. It's even possible that the investment is actually a net benefit for the economy, if one bothers to factor in the revenues of wildlife-based tourism, ecosystem services, and sport (and commercial) fisheries. And that's just the dollars and cents, which is a lamentably poor way to value our natural heritage.

Even if they never do hold steady jobs and pay back what they rightfully owe us taxpayers, protecting and restoring endangered species is worth the price. When I consider the meaning of those species, their uniqueness in geography and history and their symbolism of wildness, $1.6 billion just doesn't seem like very much money to me. Especially when I remember that it's spent on species across the entire country--from Florida manatees to Northwest salmon.

Where I live, in Seattle, officials are just about to plunk down $3.5 billion in tax dollars to build a 2 mile long tunnel. Enough said.

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February 08, 2006

Canada's Great Bear Park? Not Exactly.

The world is celebrating an announcement in Vancouver on Tuesday that the government of British Columbia finally signed on to a new vision for a region of the province nicknamed the Great Bear Rainforest--a vast, nearly roadless forest of cedar and hemlock stretching along the coast from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to Alaska.

A Google News search that night turned up 137 stories published around the world about the announcement, including a front-page piece in the Washington Post (Huge Canadian Park Is Born of Compromise), and an AP story (Canada Unveils Park to Protect Grizzlies), which was reprinted nearly everywhere from Seattle to Fort Worth.

This new phase of land-use planning is about a lot more than a big park for bears. The media who reported it as such should be corrected.

The agreement announced by B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell -- and built by First Nations who live in this area­­, environmentalists and logging company representatives,--is being called "A New Vision for Coastal B.C." That's not just P.R.--it really is a vision, a new way of thinking about and creating conservation that was a decade in the making.

In fact, contrary to some of the more romantic news reports, environmentalists and native leaders working on the Great Bear haven’t seen a U-Lock, or even a bullhorn, in at least half a decade. Instead, they’ve logged thousands of hours under fluorescent lights in stale meetings rooms at airport hotels and YMCAs, far from the tall trees and leaping salmon. They got to know people they didn't necessary like at first--mid-level bureaucrats, loggers, big-box retail executives. In doing so, everyone involved changed their thinking about the forest, their communities and the coastal economy.

Listen to CBC News for some good interviews with key negotiators (see the bottom of this page), or reporter Clifford Krauss' audio commentary on the New York Times' web site for a clearer picture of what happened.

At the core of the new accord is a vision of sustainability that fosters stong communities and healthy, lasting prosperity grounded in this unique place. This is not a traditional park.

The entire region will be "zoned" into three tiers of special management areas. More than a third of the region—the "Protected Areas" and "Biodiversity Areas"--will see no commercial logging. However, mining is allowed in the Biodiversity Areas. Tourism is OK too.

The final two-thirds of the region will be open to logging under another plan, called ecosystem-based management, which is still being hammered out by the stakeholders for implementation in 2009. (It's not over.)

What's more, some 25 First Nations living in this region, in communities like Hartley Bay, Klemtu and Bella Bella, will share management authority with the province. They'll have access to the Protected Areas for traditional and cultural use--that's not the case with parkland. They can fish, harvest cedar for carving totems or other cultural activities, and worship at their sacred sites, for instance. It's a way of thinking about people and place with a long-term vision for sustaining both.

Not everyone is pleased with the new Great Bear Agreement. Many B.C. environmentalists have criticized the environmental groups who negotiated the deal for remaining involved in the negotiations after the planning tables rejected the recommendations of a blue-ribbon team of conservation biologists. These scientists, who conducted their studies as part of the planning process, concluded that upwards of 70% of the region should remain free from industrial development to maintain healthy populations of large carnivores like grizzlies and coastal wolf packs. The end result was much less, and some say sufficient wildlife corridors are lacking.

Of course, what logging will look like under the esoteric term "ecosystem-based management" remains to be seen.

The key to the deal still rests on a gamble. The environmentalists' winning strategy was a huge $120 million "conservation financing" campaign. In less than five years, they managed to raise $30 million, with the assistance of private foundations, to fund budding entrepreneurs in native communities that agree to embrace sustainability- micro-businesses like eco-tourism, certified forest products and shellfish aquaculture. They double-dared both the province and the feds to match that number. The B.C. Liberals agreed to do so yesterday.

The newest complication is the recent federal election. Canada now has a Conservative prime minister from the oil fields of Alberta--not exactly a man envisioning sustainability. The immediate step forward is brokering a commitment from Ottawa.

Well, most British Columbians would never believe that a premier of this province would ever thank Greenpeace--known widely as the "Enemies of B.C." in the 1990s. He did this week. Perhaps Stephen Harper is next.

(Full disclosure:  Kristin Kolb-Angelbeck worked on the Great Bear Rainforest campaign from 2001-2003. She's now Tidepool's editor.)

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January 30, 2006

A Post-mortem For Coastal Birds

Cascadians suffering through this winter's unending rain may hearken back to the balmy winter of last year, when the rains didn't really begin until spring. Last year's freak weather, however, together with changes in ocean current behavior, may have been an advance signal of climate change with decidedly unpretty results for coastal ecosystems, particularly for birds. 

By summer of 2005, food was so scare that murres starved to death by the thousands on the Olympic Coast, while Washington's colonies of glaucous-winged gulls produced less than 1 percent of their annual chick numbers. Up and down the West Coast, from Vancouver Island to central California, researchers reported bizarre ocean conditions, bird die-offs (with no analogy in historical records), and extremely low stocks of some key fish. 

A cadre of 45 scientists recently convened in Seattle to figure out what caused the bird deaths. It's possible that last summer's ecological catastrophe was just a freak alignment of several weather factors, but there's increasing evidence that it bears the fingerprints of climate change. Read all about it in a top-notch piece of journalism by Robert McClure in the Seattle P-I.

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January 26, 2006

Puget Sound: Cruisin' For a Bruisin'

Washington's leaders have been making a lot of noise about cleaning up Puget Sound. Governor Gregoire wants to boost Sound restoration dollars by $42 million, or about 50 percent. It's earning the governor heaps of glowing media attention.

But the media has turned a blind eye to the astronomical number of cruise ships poised to foul local waters. A single line, Holland America, just announced that it will be increasing its cruises out of Seattle from 37 to 61. In 2006, according to the Port of Seattle, 200 cruise ships with enter and depart Puget Sound (roughly a 30 percent increase from 2005) and they'll ferry an estimated 735,000 people. Those cruise ships are potential ecological catastrophes, especially when their dumping practices are not actually, uh, regulated, as they are in California and Alaska.

What damage can a cruise ship do? According to WashPIRG:

In a day, a typical cruise ship of 3,000 passengers and crew produces 30,000 gallons of sewage, 270,000 gallons of other wastewater, and additional gallons of hazardous wastes, biomedical waste, oily bilge water, and solid waste.

You do the math. What I mean is: multiply each of those numbers by 200, then multiply again by the number of days each ship is in the Sound, and you'll find the potential environmental impact of just one year of the cruise industry. And the threat to Puget Sound is not just hypothetical. A Norwegian cruise line dumped 40 tons of human waste near Whidbey Island a couple of years ago. Oops.

At present, the cruise industry in Washington is governed with the lightest of hands--unenforceable memorandums of understanding, rather than genuine legislation. What's the solution? Real legislation to prevent dumping with real enforcement mechanisms. Levying a per-head remediation fee in advance of another "mistake" wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Adding to the list of insults, the cruise ships mostly burn low-grade dirty diesel--despite promises to the contrary--and it may be fouling the air in downtown Seattle with carcinogens. I'd welcome additional legislation regulating cruise ship emissions too.

Unfortunately there's scant reason to believe Washington will get real enforcement because the issue has been largely overlooked by the media (and hence it's invisible to most citizens). Perhaps too busy heaping praise on the Puget Sound clean-up proposals, Seattle's media outlets have pretty much ignored the cruise ship catastrophe. I could find only one mention of the Port's announcement to dramatically increase cruises in 2006--and that was buried in a boosterish article in the P-I's business section--and no mention of the additive environmental effects. Have I missed something? Or is it just being ignored?

(Hat tip to Dan over at the Seattlest blog, who's been throwing haymakers at the cruise industry lately. See here and here.)

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January 24, 2006

Looks Matter (To Ecosystems)

Sage2Oregon State University just won a $3.6 million grant for sagebrush ecosystem restoration. That's good news because sagelands conservation always seems to take a back seat to other landscapes. I wonder if the explanation for sagebrush's short shrift isn't surpisingly superficial (how's that for alliteration?). Looks matter and sagebrush just doesn't sell like the prettier places do.

If so, sagebrush ecology is paying the price for its lack of glam appeal. The American West is home to 100 million acres of sagebrush country, but it is a battered landscape. As the AP story today puts it:

Because of the invasion of non-native plants, increasing wildfires and the expansion of juniper woodlands, sagebrush ecosystems have become one of the most threatened land types in the United States, researchers say.

"We are losing sagebrush-steppe ecosystems at an alarming rate, as wildfires fueled by cheatgrass sweep across the landscape," said project coordinator Jim McIver, an associate professor of rangeland resources.

The ongoing tragedy of conservation biology, with its limited resources, is that large attractive creatures--"charismatic megafauna," in biologist-speak, such as the ivory-billed woodpecker--generate most of the hoopla and therefore receive most of the protection. Less sexy creatures are often ignored, though they may be no less critical to complete and well-functioning ecosystems.

Landscapes tend to go the same way as wildlife. People get animated by old-growth forests, coastlines, canyons, and alpine settings. These are the places that we protect in national parks, photograph endlessly, and write volumes of earnest prose about. Big conservation organizations have little trouble "branding" these ecosystems and drumming up the dollars necessary to protect them from depredations. But sagebrush country is another matter.

Sage1_1At first glance the drab dun-colored world can appear desiccated, windy, even lifeless. And for some reason, the aesthetics of sagebrush country are particularly anemic in the car-centered view of the world. I've never encountered another landscape that looks so dull and hostile from a car at 70 miles per hour but that can be so arrestingly beautiful and complex at pedestrian speeds.

Given their lack of superficial appeal, it's no surprise that sagebrush ecosystems are so badly stressed and under-protected. The list of insults is long: invasive species, biodiversity loss, fire suppression, unsustainable water withdrawals, grazing, cattle ranging, road-building, fencing... In many places, sagebrush country is so degraded that some of the most intact landscapes are where you would least expect them: the lands that were formerly part of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and the Yakima Training Center, a large-scale artillery range, to name just two places in Washington.

It's unfortunate that sagebrush lands are not better preserved because the ecology is worth protecting. They're home to an astonishing array of birds, rare plants, and even the big charismatic critters like elk, owls, porcupines, cougars, and my personal favorite, the sage grouse. (Sage grouse, in fact, may be one of the better simple indicators of overall sagebrush ecosystem health; and, no surprise, grouse numbers are drastically depressed from historical levels throughout most of the West.) Sagebrush landscapes are beautiful too--particularly during the springtime blooms--but to most observers they lack the dramatic flair of other places.

Sagebrush ecosystems should be near the top of the list of good conservation buys. Sagelands shelter rare and endangered plants and animals, they are under-represented in protected areas, they are are often not in high demand for important uses, and the land (or the rights to it) is comparatively inexpensive. In fact, one of the Northwest's recent conservation success stories is the Owyhee Initiative, a collaboration working to protect seldom-visited sagebrush country in southwestern Idaho. It's telling,however, that the group's website mostly advertises the conventionally scenic portions: river gorges and basalt outcroppings.

Sagebrush ecology, and it's comparative lack of conservation, strikes me as precisely the reason why we can benefit from a public biodiversity accounting. I'd bet that dollar for dollar, conservationists--and funders of conservation--could do more good for native biodiversity by protecting sagebrush country than by continuing to help the eye-candy ecosystems.

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January 19, 2006

River of Hope

If the little town of Eatonville is known at all to outsiders, it's probably as a village on the way to Mount Rainier. But it's also a great example of private landowners working to restore salmon habitat in nearby Ohop Creek. The local project was just awarded $1.1 million from the state's Salmon Recovery Fund. (The Tacoma News Tribune has a terrific article).

What's really encouraging about the Eatonville initiative is that it belies the developer-inflamed hysterics that may generate a takings initiative in Washington, similar to Measure 37 in Oregon. There doesn't seem to be much "rural rage" in Eatonville, just plenty of farmers and other landowners who value wildlife--and who are looking for growth management to blend regulation with smart incentives.

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January 11, 2006

What Washington Conservation Can Learn From Idaho

Palouse_falls Consider the similarities. Both Idaho and Washington are this year graced with budget surpluses: $214 million in Idaho and a whopping $1.4 billion in Washington. (Even in per capita terms, Washington's surplus is roughly 50 percent larger than Idaho's.) Both Idaho and Washington are also graced with stunning natural features and a populace that purports to love the outdoors. But both are also cursed by a crumbling infrastructure of woefully underfunded state parks.

Enter Idaho's republican governor, Dirk Kempthorne, who wants to spend $34 million on upgrading and expanding Idaho's park system. Maybe Kempthorne is selfish--he's known to camp frequently in the summer. Or maybe he's just a wise investor--officials calculate a big return on the investment, according to the Idaho Statesman:

The economic benefits of spending about $34 million on construction and improvements of state parks would bring $52.5 million to the state's economy through goods, services, leisure and hospitality and other types of sales, according to state figures.

And what's Washington proposing to do with its park system? That's where the similarities end. Washington's proposing, well, pretty much nothing.

One republican legislator from Chehalis wants to use the money to abolish park entrance fees, though that would leave the parks in the same fiscal predicament they're in now. Otherwise, as far as I know, no one's made a peep about spending some of the windfall on Washington's parks.

In national terms, Washington's state parks are almost laughably underfunded. When it comes to park funding, the Evergreen State is something like Mississippi of the economy. That's a real tragedy in a place that boasts little visited coastlines, lakes, forests, mountains, deserts, canyons, and rivers that would be emblems of state pride in other parts of the country.

And state parks are a public good that protect ecosystems even while they help thousands of people experience nature's bounty. As it turns out, they're a pretty good investment too.

If you're still skeptical, consider the following facts from the Washington State Parks website:

  • The backlog of major maintenance needed in Washington State Parks is now estimated at $40 million. Capital facilities needs are estimated at $300 million over 10 years.
  • Washington spends only 82 cents per park visitor compared to the national average of $2.82 per visitor.
  • The State Parks system is currently expected to generate 37 percent of its own funding, compared to 20 percent a decade ago.
  • State spending on parks as a portion of the total state budget has declined in the last decade. It is less than one quarter of one percent of the state budget. Yet, parks contribute more than $1.1 billion to the state's economy.

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Go Fish

Over the weekend The Oregonian ran a good short series on the diminishing numbers of hunters and anglers in the state. While the state's population has doubled since 1950, the number of hunters and fishermen has actually declined. [Read the articles here, here, here, and here.] This is not just a Beaver State phenomenon--it's true nationwide--and it may lead to some troubling implications for wildlife protection.

The Oregonian seems mostly concerned that without hunting and fishing, fewer people will want to protect wildlife and natural areas. I think that's not right. Northwesterners are still getting out into nature in vast, teeming, trail-clogging hordes. In fact, wildlife watchers spend generate substantially more economic activity than hunters and anglers combined.

The more important question--and the one that The Oregonian gives comparatively short shrift to--is a basic policy question. As the paper has it:

...who will pay the costs of preserving habitat and managing fish and wildlife? Hunters and fishermen now foot most of the bill, not just through the steep license, tag and access fees they pay, but also through countless hours of volunteer labor, pulling out abandoned fences, cutting down water-sucking juniper trees, planting streamside willows and tending boxes of fish eggs.

In Oregon, as in many other states, hunting and fishing licenses, together with taxes items like ammunition and fishing rods, pay for a huge variety of conservation benefits--everything from fieldwork by professional biologists to refuges like Sauvie's Island on the Columbia River. Without those (declining) sources of revenue, the future of conservation may look even more bleak than it already is. So what to do?

It's hard to know where else that money is going to come from. The putatively eco-friendly outdoor recreationists--hikers, backpackers, skiers, rock climbers, alpinists, mountain bikers, sea kayakers, river rafters, wind surfers, birders, and so on--pay no comparable taxes or fees to those imposed on hunting and fishing. To be sure, recreationists sometimes pay trailhead fees (such as the Northwest Forest Pass), entrance fees to state parks or DNR land, or "sno-park" fees, but these fees only defray the costs of maintaining access. They certainly don't cover the costs of conservation biologists, ecosystem restoration, or wildlife management.

So what's left: An REI tax? Highers fees to park at trailheads?

Obviously, the first idea is a non-starter; and even access fees are extremely unpopular with users. One partial solution may be re-invigorating hunting and angling as pastimes, even though some progressives regard them as retrograde. (In fact, that may be one reason they're in decline: they're not just unfashionable in some circles, they're downright suspect.) But whatever your beliefs about the ethics of hunting and fishing, there are meaningful benefits for ecosystem protection to consider.

Those benefits include not only reliable revenue for conservation, but a legacy of wildlife protection that, in the Northwest, extends back at least as far as the creation of Olympic National Park--a treasure-trove of endemic species that was originally set aside to conserve Roosevelt elk for hunting. Today that ethos lives on in local watershed protection groups as well as in bigger fish like Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited.

But I'll leave it to the latest issue of the Washington Monthly, which has a great article on the politics of hunting--and its potential to preserve open space and wildlife. Definitely worth a read:

This idea of public ownership became the intellectual foundation for America's conservation movement a century ago, when commercial hunters had begun decimating buffalo herds and blasting snowy egrets with cannons in order to sell feathers for ladies' hats. Theodore Roosevelt and a handful of other naturalists--most of them hunters--argued that wildlife belonged to the public and therefore could not be obliterated by business interests. "Public rights comes first and private interests second," Roosevelt wrote in 1905. "The conservation of wildlife and…all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method." He outlawed commercial hunting and promoted measures--such as bag limits and game seasons--to ensure that wildlife could be enjoyed by future generations.

In a reversal of the tragedy of the commons, the American conservation movement has been far more successful, both in garnering popular support and in saving species from extinction, than efforts in countries where a different mentality exists toward ownership of wildlife. Whereas America brought back the elk, antelope, and white-tailed deer, in Britain boars, beavers, and bears no longer roam. Today, however, this heritage faces a new challenge, unfathomable in the days of Penn or Roosevelt. As Todd Bogenschutz of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources told me, "Our forefathers made wildlife public, but they screwed another thing up. They should have made access to wildlife public."

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December 23, 2005

A Gift for the Reindeer Too

A federal judge has halted snowmobile grooming in the recovery area for the Selkirk caribou--the only reindeer to still visit the continental United States. [Coverage in the Olympian and the Coeur d'Alene-area Daily Bee.] The ruling is dead right: snowmobiles are one of the primary threats to the Selkirk herd, which need undisturbed winter habitat. Snowmobiles are still allowed, even under the new injunction, but the absence of groomed tracks will substantially decrease their numbers.

Given that 1) the caribou are often considered the most endangered large mammal in North America; 2) pretty much everyone agrees that snowmobiling is inimical to their survival; and 3) their designated recovery area is a small and remote parcel of mountainous northeast Washington and northern Idaho, the only question I'm left wondering is: why is any snowmobiling at all allowed in their so-called "recovery area"?

And for readers taking note, this is the third good news post here today. Must be the season...

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December 22, 2005

A Grizzly Discussion

A few days ago, I posted on Raincoast's buyout of guide-outfitter hunting rights in coastal BC. The upshot is that I questioned whether the buyout was the wisest possible use of conservation dollars and postulated that conservation investments can benefit from rigorous accounting. As blog posts are wont to do, it circulated around the web where it attracted a variety of feedback--thoughtful rebuttals and inquiries, incoherent ranting, and a fairly vicious attack penned by Chris Genovali, the executive director of Raincoast.

So in response to some of the criticisms--many of which were both thoughtful and thought-provoking--I've decided to post here a response to Genovali. I'm hoping today's post can serve as a useful contribution to a reasoned debate about an issue than many of us care about deeply--species protection. Here goes (gulp)...


I must confess that I’m baffled by the venom in your response. A plain reading of my article reveals that--far from being “an opportunistic hit piece”--it was a set of musings and questions about the merits of Raincoast’s buyouts and the larger question of which conservation strategies are most effective at protecting biodiversity. (I encourage readers to take a look at my original article and decide for themselves.)

As a lifelong advocate for wildlands and species protection I’m thrilled by much of what Raincoast has accomplished in BC. But I’m disappointed that Raincoast’s good work is marred by an inability to brook even mild questioning. It is, I believe, worth pointing out that the ecological implications of hunting, even big game hunting, are complex. Personally, I find the trophy hunting of predators abhorrent, but that alone doesn’t mean that, on the whole, it is bad for biodiversity. In fact, the totality of the ecosystem implications of hunting are far from clear and are a subject of ongoing debate among wildlife biologists.

My main objective with the article, a point that I fear may have been overlooked, was to suggest that conservation decisions can benefit from rigorous accounting practices. That is, we need to consider costs and benefits, leverage points, and opportunity costs. Conservationists may have additional ethical issues in mind—the rights of indigenous peoples, trails and access for users, and concerns about hunting, just to name a very few—but these issues ought to be treated separately from the essential question: how can we protect native biodiversity most effectively and efficiently?

In the original post on NEW’s Cascadia Scorecard Weblog, and in its re-publication on The Tyee, I invited information from readers that would prove to me the wisdom of Raincoast’s actions. Your article in response provides some (along with an unfortunate amount of embittered name calling).

For example, it’s clearly germane—as you pointed out—that Horejsi et al. concluded that coastal grizzly populations are depressed and that sport hunting is contributing to the decline. But I remain unclear about why it matters, from a purely conservation perspective, whether guide-outfitter hunting resembles a search and destroy mission. A good conservation accounting would demonstrate that guide-outfitter hunting is especially damaging to grizzly populations in a way that other activities are not—such as hunting by BC residents, clearcut logging, road-building, and even ecotourism. At the least, a solid case could perhaps be made that these other threats cannot be addressed with the resources at hand, and so guide-outfitter rights are the best available buy. I would like to hear that case and be convinced that the buyouts were directed primarily at conservation and not simply at alleviating a practice that some (myself included) find disturbing (that is, trophy hunting).

It’s also relevant that trophy hunting can have ecological implications that ripple beyond the individual animal killed, as Chris Darimont, the conservation biologist you cite, points out. This is a meaningful strike against trophy hunting and, while it is not the only consideration, it is precisely the sort of evidence that is worth weighing in the balance.

I admit, however, to being perplexed by carnivore expert Paul Paquet’s argument, which you quote at length. For one thing, I never suggested that the “only” way to conserve large carnivores is to allow trophy hunting. Instead, I pointed out that trophy hunting has perversely beneficial effects in some contexts. As another example, I  was recently fortunate to visit the world’s leading cheetah conservation center in South Africa. While interviewing their staff biologists I was surprised to learn that a large contingent of experts who have devoted themselves to protecting cheetahs actually support trophy hunting—on the grounds that not hunting cheetahs is actually worse for the animals in the long run. They were willing to take a hard look at the conservation realities and conduct a genuine accounting of the costs and benefits of limited hunting. Perhaps Raincoast has conducted such an analysis. If so, sharing it would help me, and many others, to understand the rationale for your strategy.

Finally, the overall strategy seems confused. If the point of buying the guide-outfitter rights is truly to protect native biodiversity, then the payoff seems small for such an expensive investment. As I understand it, because the buyout includes only certain guide-outfitter rights (not the less expensive rights for BC residents) it prevents the killing of a fairly small number of grizzlies per year and, if I’m not mistaken, the kill rate has been even lower in recent years.

Still willing to be convinced,

Eric de Place

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