By Amelia Templeton
It’s the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. Much of our day to day reporting on endangered species focuses on the political controversies that arise from conservation strategies: wolf predation of livestock, water shutoffs in the Klamath Basin, mill closures after the Northwest Forest Plan.
We also do fair amount of reporting on the strange things people do to try to save individual species in peril: putting fish in trucks, removing a dam, relocating deer, and shooting one kind of owl to save another.
But what interests me the most are the big picture questions. Here are three questions conservation scientists are debating, inspired in part by this excellent conservation literature review.
1) Is It Time To Triage?
Governments and conservation groups have a limited amount of money to spend trying to recover endangered species. Those dollars are typically allocated to species judged to be the most at threat, the most ecologically unique and significant and the most charismatic. Scientists say tigers, pandas and spotted owls all benefit from a disproportionate share of conservation funding.
Researchers with the University of Queensland in Australia and the Department of Conservation in New Zealand have sparked a vigorous debate over the need to include two more criteria: the cost of management and the likelihood that an attempt to save a species will succeed.
The question of whether to stop trying to save some charismatic, highly imperiled species so funding can go to more help conserve more viable populations seems particularly relevant in the Northwest, where scientists are debating a potentially costly and risky campaign to save the spotted owl by shooting barred owls.
It’s also an idea that appears to have influenced local groups like the Wild Salmon Center, which has proposed protecting the Northwest’s strongest salmon runs and healthiest rivers as the most effective approach to salmon recovery.
2) Is There A Universal Minimum Viable Population? More....