boone and crockett club position statement
Conservation and Preservation
Conservation and preservation are the two primary approaches by which natural resources are managed. They are terms everyone has heard of, but for many people they remain loosely defined and not well understood. Conservation and preservation are both concerned with protection of the environment, but they are based on different philosophies that produce different results.
Conservation focuses on using and managing natural resources to benefit people, but in keeping within the limits of supply, regrowth, and change, both natural and human-influenced. Preservation is a philosophy that generally seeks to keep natural resources in a pristine state by excluding active management and use by people. It is often associated with the phrase, “letting nature take its course.”
Conservation is the most widely-used and accepted model for the treatment of natural resources, and is primarily responsible for the diverse and abundant wildlife populations that exist in North America. Nevertheless, there is a growing belief that letting nature take its course with no human interference is the best philosophy. Many people are mistakenly calling this way of thinking conservation, though it is more closely aligned with preservation.
The Boone and Crockett Club has a long history with both conservation and preservation. Club members developed and nationalized conservation beginning in the late 19th century and have helped shape its course ever since. The Club believes public education with respect to these two concepts is key to ensuring conservation evolves with better ideas and guards against misleading ones.
The Boone and Crockett Club maintains conservation, rather than preservation, has the greatest chance of producing the goods and services that people need as well as retaining long-term ecological integrity. Conservation provides the means and knowledge to produce timber from the most productive growing areas while allowing less intensive management over the majority of the forested landscape. This enhances biodiversity while localizing the impacts of our demands for these products. We also have the ability to locate and manage intensive industries (such as energy development) and urban growth so that it aids conservation—consolidating daily life and extractive industries in some places allows other places to produce the benefits of wilderness, scenery, and wildlife habitat.
The Club believes conservation became the predominant model for the treatment of natural resources for good reason. It accounted for the fact that growing human population could not (and should not) be kept completely separated from nature, and still allowed us to protect certain resources when ecological risk was too great. Modern conservation also acknowledges the ecological reality that with or without human influence, lightning-caused fires, insects, disease, drought, floods, high winds, climate change, and other natural forces will continue to change ecosystems. There is no state of “natural balance” for ecosystems to return to, which is why conservation requires a very sophisticated scientific approach implemented by highly trained professionals.
Though often presented as competing concepts, the Club has never viewed conservation and preservation as opposing schools of thought. Conservation is the overarching concept, with preservation being one of many management options within a broad conservation approach. The Club believes preservation is useful in limited situations where appropriate conservation practices can still be taken to ensure sensitive ecosystems remain resilient in the face of ecological change (national parks and wilderness areas are examples).
The Boone and Crockett Club believes there is much misinformation provided to the public about what conservation is and what it is not. Many groups with anti-conservation agendas add to the confusion by intentionally adopting the term “conservation” to describe their activities, as it helps them draw funding from people who mistakenly think they are supporting actual conservation. Regardless of what something is called, any proposal that seeks to save a resource by prohibiting all active management and sustainable use by people is probably not conservation.
Conservation includes activities such as harvesting trees and using controlled burns to reduce build-ups of forest litter (fuel) and overgrowth encourages biodiversity and prevents larger, hotter, uncontrollable fires from occurring. Blocking such management actions on the mistaken belief that forests can return to pristine “natural” conditions is contrary to conservation. Letting nature take its course is seductive in its simplicity (and can be of value to scientists in certain cases), but it has serious negative implications as an overriding approach for forests, wildlife, and other natural resources.
So long as people exist, there will continue to be a demand for food, protection from the elements, clean water, and energy. These needs must be addressed, at least in part, by using the natural resources that exist in North America. The Boone and Crockett Club maintains that the appropriate response to the challenges and conditions we face today is not a retreat to inaction or relying primarily on preservation, but instituting new, active approaches to ecosystem management that produce more socially acceptable and sustainable results.
A comprehensive essay entitled “The Boone and Crockett Club on Conservation and Preservation” is available at this link.
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