Tag Archives: conservation

Conservation: When should we compromise?

A very close friend of mine is involved in developing a book about a particular animal. This animal is being considered as and Endangered Species, and my friend’s job is to create a book aimed at land owners that will inform them about this species and how they can help protect it. If they protect the species, there is a possibility that it will never get placed on the endangered species list and thus, these landowners will not have to incur any restrictions on their land, where this species resides. In essence, protecting the species is a win-win for everyone.

The problem is, there are certain truths supported by research that are not supported by the land owners. Livestock grazing, if not done properly, has been found to degrade habitat for this species. However, this group of land owners relies on livestock grazing for their livelihood, and so representatives from this group are speaking out so that nothing about grazing is included in this book. While my friend knows what the research says, he asks himself two questions: a) What will happen if I alienate this group of land owners?  and b) These land owners have been working on the land first-hand for years. What if they know more than isolated research?

I freelance for an organization that helps land owners receive benefits in exchange for protecting and conserving critically endangered wildlife, flora and their habitat. I have seen that working together is often one of the most beneficial solutions to environmental problems and that land owners are the best stewards of their own land. This is one solution to solving a big and complex problem and it benefits everyone involved.

How do we draw the line between compromising for the sake of not offending a group of people versus doing what we believe is right? How do we balance the different interest groups that are involved in any type of decision making on anything in society that is worth debating? How do we really know what’s right? Is it appropriate to take an occasional loss in what we think is right to gain a strategic alliance with a group that may help us in the future?

I suppose the correct answer to these questions will vary from person to person, but from watching my friend’s struggle with this issue I suppose it is sometimes OK to create an alliance with a group of people, taking a small loss, but in the end possibly attaining a milestone in success. The hard thing is choosing your battles. In some cases, it would be wrong to compromise–it may go against your morals. In this case, you should not compromise. You must fight. But I think the most important thing that I have picked up from my friend’s situation, is you must respect others and you must always remember, if you are planning to burn a bridge you better not plan on crossing that bridge again later.


Conservation: Local residents are the answer

Not everyone is familiar with conservation easements, though they are one of the best ways to help bridge the gap between environmentalists and private land owners.

Although they can get very complicated really quick, in their most popular form the basic idea is that ranchers, farmers or other private landowners get paid to not develop their land. This not only benefits many landowners financially, but also ensures that their land will remain in their family. This is very important to many small-time ranchers, for instance, who have made a living off the land and want to ensure that their children can do the same.

This is also great for conservation. Many endangered and imperiled species live on land that is owned privately. By working with local landowners and providing them incentives, government and non-profit environmental organizations can help ensure that species are protected for years to come.

The best kind of conservation takes the human perspective into account. Many organizations and people have made the mistake of putting the environment and animals in competition with people. Conservation easements, however, benefit the environment and local landowners, and put the stewardship back in the hands of the people. Taking people into account is a technique that has been adopted by organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund in many of their projects around the globe: making the people who live on the land the stewards of the land and wildlife. This has shown far greater success than any laws or harsh policing of lands.

I challenge all organizations to follow this approach and truly work with landowners instead of competing against them. Although there are other types of conservation, this surely one of the best ways to successfully conserve the land and wildlife that we love.