By Mohammed Ashraf
Many wildlife professionals perceive that the disconnect between wildlife management and research has happened during the last few decades. I review the wildlife literature and construct a timeline of wildlife management and research to determine if and when the disconnect initially occurred. There appears never to have been a strong relationship between wildlife management and research, even though our profession has strived to link the two prior to the publication of Game Management, by Aldo Leopold in 1933. This weak connection, at best, has lurked in the shadows as the wildlife profession has evolved from a game management-oriented profession into the broad field of wildlife conservation we see today. Wildlife managers manipulate systems to achieve a management objective rather than to find out how the system works. Wildlife researchers generate knowledge by testing hypotheses. This knowledge is then used to guide and support wildlife management. Romesburg (1981)states that some of the principles of wildlife management were based on unreliable knowledge and that most proposed hypotheses are not tested, but become dogma through verbal repetition. Since the mid-1980s, there have been several papers on how to improve the rigor in wildlife science. Recommendations include improving the quantitative rigor in both undergraduate and graduate wildlife programs, more emphasis on study designs, the formulation of hypotheses, and the testing of those hypotheses. As landscapes become more fragmented, habitat patches become smaller and smaller, and more species are threatened with extinction, wildlife managers and researchers will have to work together on some very complex, dynamic problems. There may not be another chance to get it right.
Prior to 1905, the philosophy toward game was to perpetuate, rather than to improve or create hunting opportunities (Leopold 1933:16). The thought was that hunting restrictions could “string out” the remnant game species and make them last a longer time. Later in this decade, Theodore Roosevelt began to promote the idea of “conservation through wise use.” Wildlife, forests, ranges, and waterpower were conceived by Roosevelt to be renewable organic resources, which might last forever if they were harvested scientifically, and not faster than they were reproduced. This was the foundation for the Roosevelt doctrine of conservation (Leopold 1933:17–18). Part of the doctrine was Roosevelt’s idea that science should be used as a tool for conservation of natural resources, a very new concept in 1910. Roosevelt probably imagined science being used for management of bag limits and season lengths of game species. Leopold (1933:20) states, “I do not know who first used science creatively as a tool to produce game crops in America.” However, we do know that the first, partially management- oriented research project conducted in America was the “Cooperative Quail Study Investigation” conducted by Herbert L. Stoddard from 1924–1929 (Stoddard 1931). In the hiring letter to Stoddard, Dr. E. W. Nelson, Director of the U.S. Biological Survey, wrote that one of the objectives of the investigation was “to definitely determine methods whereby the quail can be increased and maintained in numbers far beyond these at present” (Komarek 1978:iii–iv).
Leopold (1933:3) defined game management as “The art of making the land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use.” However, this definition has evolved over time. Leopold described management as an art, but did not mention science in his definition. As the profession of game management evolved into a broader field, the use of terms like ecology and conservation became more common. Eventually, science was added to the evolving definition of wildlife management, so that science would be the foundation and the guide for the management activities that were applied to the habitats and populations being managed.
There seems to be the perception among wildlife professionals that the disconnect between wildlife management and research is something that just happened during the last couple of decades. This is especially true among young professionals and graduate students who may have limited experience and are not familiar with the beginnings and the evolution of their profession. It makes sense that to know where you are going, you have to know where you have been. What is and what should be are usually two different things. It seems that students in wildlife programs get more of how things should be and not as much of how things are in the real world concerning the relationship of wildlife management and research. Even before the publication of Game Management in 1933 by Leopold, there were serious debates over the role of science in management. About 1913–1914,
William T. Hornaday was credited with saving the American bison (Bison bison) and the Alaskan fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) from extinction. Despite the fact that he was a member of the scientific community, Hornaday was contemptuous of the rudimentary wildlife research effort that was developing throughout his career, although he readily accepted any findings that supported his own prejudices (Trefethen 1975:178).
Timeline of Events That Have Contributed to the Development of the Wildlife Research Field in the United States
1862 Morrill Land Grant Act allowed for the creation of land grant colleges.
1885 Formation of the Section of Economic Ornithology in the Department of Agriculture, later renamed the Biological Survey.
1914 The Ecological Society of America was formed.
1920 First issue of Ecology published.
1924 First game management research project, Stoddard’s (1931) northern bobwhite work in South Georgia.
1930 American Game Policy published.
1933 First university wildlife program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
1935 First Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units formed at land-grant universities.
1936 First North American Wildlife Conference held in Washington, DC
1937 The Wildlife Society was formed.
1937 First issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management published.
1937 Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration (Pittman- Robertson) Act is passed by Congress.
1939 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is created.
1958 First Wildlife Monograph published.
1972 First issue of the Wildlife Society Bulletin published.
1985 The Society for Conservation Biology is formed.
1987 First issue of Conservation Biology published.
1994 First annual Wildlife Society conference.
During the late 1920s, one of the weaknesses of the proponents of the wildlife (i.e., waterfowl) refuge bills before the U.S. Congress was the dearth of scientific information on the status and movements of the various segments of the continental waterfowl population (Trefethen 1975:192). This lack of information was cause for the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey to implement waterfowl banding projects and a primitive annual waterfowl survey (Trefethen 1975:178). In 1934, passage of the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act provided funds to purchase wetland habitat to be protected in the National Wildlife Refuge System. From about 1910 until the early 1930s, the Kaibab deer issue on the Kaibab Plateau in northwestern Arizona was a contentious issue among hunters and federal and state agencies (Trefethen 1975:195–201). After about two decades of applying different strategies to keep the deer population at levels that the habitat could support and then through scientific research, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission and the U.S. Forest Service developed a kit of management tools designed to maintain the deer population at a level that would ensure the health of the animals and the habitat on which they depended (Trefethen 1975:200). In 1935, the Cooperative Wildlife Research Units were established to educate wildlife biologists and conduct wildlife research (Peek 1986:13). In 1937, The Wildlife Society was formed to advance competency of wildlife biologists and advance the art and science of wildlife management. Leopold (1937:104) makes a case for increasing wildlife research funding, stating “Half a dozen New Deal bureaus are spending a score of millions on wildlife work, but not a red penny for research.” Also in 1937, the enactment of the Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration Act was legal recognition of the research into problems of wildlife management were needed, as well as habitat acquisition (Peek 1986:14). However, (Leopold, Taylor, Bennitt, and Chapman, 1938) cautioned that even after fifteen years of research on how wildlife can be increased by means of management, early wildlife management had failed except for a few species. From the 1940s to the 1970s, the field of wildlife management continued to evolve. In 1979, the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference hosted a session entitled “Wildlife and Fisheries Research Needs.” Conclusions of the session were: (1) wildlife and fisheries research programs are in trouble, and (2) programs were in trouble because researchers, managers, administrators, and politicians do not understand the research process; because the research process is misunderstood, its past and potential contributions to management are underappreciated and under v alued; and because research is undervalued, it is underfunded (Gill 1985). Romesburg (1981) stated that some of the principles of wildlife management were based on unreliable knowledge and that most proposed hypotheses are not tested, but become dogma through verbal repetition. More....