By Ranger Steve Mueller
Aldo Leopold revolutionized wildlife management with his 1933 Game Management textbook. He is most famous for his 1949 Sand County Almanac that formulated “Land Ethic” concepts. He and Rachel Carson share the distinction of being “Conservationists of the 20th Century.”
Leopold changed how wildlife is managed by changing the practice from single species focus to ecosystem focus. He maintained that we must look at the whole natural community. For centuries people only focused on one species at time and did not consider the impact of narrow focus in regards to environmental health.
Following his publication, scientists and the general public began looking at how the ecosystems function and how our lives and economy are impacted by our practices. Rachel Carson brought it to public attention that DDT and other chemicals were not only harming wildlife and destroying biodiversity but were harming humans.
There will always be those that do not care if negative impacts affect families if they can make more money for themselves. When it became apparent that the sleeping aid Thalidomide caused children to be born with stubs for legs and arms, the medicine was outlawed. More testing was required on drugs while some people do not think public protection merits laws to protect people or wildlife.
There is always a struggle between self-interest and public interest. There are efforts to persuade public opinion away from public interest so that individuals can do more activities without considering their impacts on the general public and health of the environment that supports us.
As Earth Day approaches (April 22) there is controversial legislation in Michigan (Senate Bill 78) that will prevent wildlife biologists from considering biodiversity in management practices if passed. SB 78 redefines “biological conservation” and restricts the ability of the Department of Natural Resources to consider “biodiversity” when managing state lands.
The bill would amend several parts of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act to do the following:
– Prohibit the DNR and the Natural Resources Commission from enforcing a rule that designates an area of land specifically for the purpose of achieving or maintaining biological diversity.
– Delete the conservation of biological diversity from the DNR’s duties to balance its management activities with economic values.
– Eliminate a requirement that the DNR manage forests in a manner that promotes restoration.
– Provide that a State department or agency would not have to designate or classify an area of land specifically for the purpose of achieving or maintaining biological diversity.
– Revise the definition of “conservation” with regard to biological diversity.
– Delete a legislative finding that most losses of biological diversity are the result of human activity.
Perhaps the best thing you can do for our community this Earth Day is read the bill and contact your legislators with your thoughts.
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the firstname.lastname@example.org Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.