Literally since the dawn of man, the quest for survival has resulted in the need for wildlife management and conservation. As man and man’s habits (nomadic, sedentary) evolved, so too did wildlife management and conservation techniques; taking us from a point of pure anthropocentricity to a place where the health of the system is directly related to the health of our own species…all species.
Stan Rowe (1918-2004), Professor Emeritus at the University of Saskatchewan and lifelong ecologist, presented a fairly radical view of the world that may well differ from wildlife management officials, but makes scientific sense to me and perhaps for you as well. The basis of his contention is that the world has established an organizational hierarchy based on complexity: cells contained in tissues, tissues contained in organs, organs contained in organisms, and organisms contained in ecosystems.
Earth before organisms. Ecosystems before people. Ecosphere not biosphere. Ecocentrism not biocentrism. Ecodiversity not biodiversity.
-The Trumpeter (2001), From Shallow To Deep Ecological Philosophy, Stan Rowe
Expanding on Rowe’s organizational hierarchy, I believe this truly is the way to view the Earth system. For instance, I can grow a single cell in a tissue culture plate that requires a set of minimum conditions to ensure survival. However, these minimum conditions are not going to make “happy” cells. By adjusting media concentrations, incubating at optimal temperature, adjusting the carbon dioxide levels, and other biotic and abiotic factors, etc., that single cell will not just survive but thrive, which is what I believe to be the ultimate goal of wildlife conservation. We need to understand not only what the minimal conditions are, but we need to know what the optimal conditions are on a hierarchal basis. That is the only way to ensure true ecosystem sustainability.
I am a firm follower of the need to preserve the health of the entire system as a means to manage and conserve individual species (i.e. salmon) and resources (i.e. water quality). Plus, I am also quite partial to conserving resources simply on the basis of aesthetics. Thus, you could say I adhere to the ecocentric view. However, the pragmatist in me realizes that not all individuals that constitute our global society feel the same way and many actually, and some quite adamantly, attest to the fact that nature is a resource to serve mankind. To these segments we must use key words like value, money, and cost-benefit to ensure conservation and sustainable management practices are instituted.
To that end, fisheries and wildlife conservation is even more complex than many people believe. So I’ll leave you with a quote in the realm of deep ecology and one that sums up the sheer complexity of this issue is: “In other words, to successfully conserve natural resources, you must be a biologist, psychologist, anthropologist, sociologist, economist, and a philosopher all at once.”
On an existential side note, cannot all human action, including conservation and management practices, be reduced to an anthropocentric view? Especially since we must come to realize that human actions and environmental modifications can and will result in negative responses unto ourselves.