Sunday, June 21, 2009

Conservation Decisions – The General Patton Approach

It was General George Patton who originally said, “A good plan executed now is better than a perfect plan later.” Though Patton was referring to military planning, some scientists and policy makers believe that such a strategy should also be applied to ecology and conservation.

Recently, a paper from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposes that decision making, in regards to natural resource conservation, should be undertaken with consideration to both science and social impact. More specifically, the paper proposes that climate change is hastening the need for sound conservation strategies with respect to the managed relocation of species. Furthermore, they argue that despite a past hesitation to intervene, biologists should consider human-facilitated migrations as a viable option.

A myriad of authors from a variety of universities and governmental agencies participated in the study which qualitatively examined three cases where managed relocation was conducted or considered. From these case studies, the group developed a decision-making model that considers such action from the Focal impact, Collateral impact, Feasibility, and Acceptability to both ecology and public perception.
Image from Article, 3D Evaluation of decision to Relocate Species

My opinion in the matter is that although the model may, or may not, be an adequate tool in achieving desired policy outcomes, the science of species introductions and relocations tends to demonstrate that the practice is wrought with unknown variables and is a high-risk endeavor. Because of this, I don’t like that the paper – though well intentioned – “pushes” managed relocation when it should only be “pushing” a decision making process. In my experience, those species found admirable to the public are not always the best candidates for relocation, and when public opinion enters into science, decisions can be made based on perception and misconceptions as opposed to on fact.

Just my opinion, I could be wrong…

Richardson, D., Hellmann, J., McLachlan, J., Sax, D., Schwartz, M., Gonzalez, P., Brennan, E., Camacho, A., Root, T., Sala, O., Schneider, S., Ashe, D., Clark, J., Early, R., Etterson, J., Fielder, E., Gill, J., Minteer, B., Polasky, S., Safford, H., Thompson, A., & Vellend, M. (2009). From the Cover: Multidimensional evaluation of managed relocation Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106 (24), 9721-9724 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0902327106

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