Private Sector Wildlife Biologists and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation

Symposium
ROOM: CC, Room 25B
SESSION NUMBER: 88
 
The historical development of wildlife conservation in the United States and Canada has been summarized in the seven points of what is often referred to as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (the Model). Associated with the Model is the public trust doctrine (PTD). Wildlife is considered “owned” by the public with government responsibility for stewardship of those resources. The profession of wildlife biology has thus centered on government agencies as the primary source of wildlife management activities, with academia providing supporting roles in research and education. Biologists working within the private sector, both non-profit and for-profit, are often overlooked during discussions of the Model and public trust responsibilities. However, private-sector biologists have existed since the genesis of the profession, and with the advent of societal/legal changes such as the National Environmental Policy Act and increasing human-wildlife conflicts, numbers of private-sector professionals have increased. A recent survey of the current TWS membership records indicates that there are about as many members within the private sector as there are in federal agencies. About one third of the members who are Certified Wildlife Biologists work within the private sector, most with the for-profit realm. In this symposium, we will feature professionals from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives and discuss what it means to be a wildlife professional within the private sector, especially in relationship to the PTD.

12:50PM Welcome and Overview – the History and Status of Wildlife Professionals in the Private Sector
  Lynn Braband
The historical development of wildlife conservation in the United States and Canada has been summarized in the seven points of what is often referred to as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (the Model). Associated with the Model is the public trust doctrine (PTD). Wildlife is considered “owned” by the public with government responsibility for stewardship of those resources. The profession of wildlife biology has thus centered on government agencies as the primary source of wildlife management activities, with academia providing supporting roles in research and education. However, private-sector biologists have existed since the genesis of the profession, and with the advent of societal/legal changes such as the National Environmental Policy Act and increasing human-wildlife conflicts, numbers of private-sector professionals have increased. One of the motivations for development of a certification process for wildlife biologists was the increased number of professionals within the private sector, especially consulting firms. A recent survey of the current TWS membership records indicated that about as many members are employed within the private sector as in federal agencies. About one third of the members who are Certified Wildlife Biologists® work within the private sector, most within the for-profit realm. The Code of Ethics of TWS seems to contain wording applicable to a wide range of employment venues. What does it mean (or should mean) to be a wildlife professional? What are the similarities and differences between wildlife agencies and the wildlife profession? In this symposium, professionals from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives will discuss what it means to be a wildlife professional within the private sector, especially in relationship to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and the PTD.
1:10PM The Public-Private Conservation Institution: an Enduring Success of North American Wildlife Conservation
  John F. Organ
Wildlife conservation in North America emerged in its current form largely due to efforts of private conservation interests. As governmental conservation agencies and programs, principally at the state and federal levels developed and matured, the role of the private sector has shifted. Historically, wildlife biologists worked for a government agency, and the private sector role was one of advocacy. Today, professional wildlife biologists working in conservation organizations, advocacy groups, service companies, and the legislative arena comprise a significant portion of the enterprise known as the wildlife management enterprise in North America. Compared to other nations worldwide, this balanced and collaborative enterprise represents a unique and profoundly successful example. The development of this enterprise will be discussed and thoughts on the future role of private sector wildlife biologists in North American wildlife conservation offered.
1:30PM The Future of the Conservation Is Understanding People
  Jeremy T. Bruskotter
The policies, practices and institutions that collectively comprise modern “conservation” emerged in the United States as a Progressive Era response to uncontrolled human use of natural resources. Progressivism emphasized the use of science and government to manage resources held in the public’s trust, ultimately resulting in the professionalization of a variety of resource management fields (e.g., forestry, fisheries, wildlife). Today professional resource managers are credited with numerous conservation successes achieved throughout the 20th century; however, they are also criticized as being captured by relatively narrow interests. Regardless of how one frames the history of conservation, a variety of social trends suggest our Progressive Era model of conservation may be ill-suited for dealing with 21st century resource allocation problems. Specifically, research indicates that: (i) public trust in government has declined precipitously, which could undermine government-led conservation efforts; (ii) participation in ‘traditional’ consumptive activities has been declining, eroding the base of support for resource management fields; and (iii) public values and interests in nature and wildlife have diversified, creating conflict among those interested in conservation. Conservation science is changing as well. Simplistic, single-output approaches to resource management are increasingly recognized as insufficient for dealing with complex adaptive systems comprised of both social and ecological components. How society responds to these social trends will ultimately determine the course of conservation throughout the next century. Human dimensions research is critical not only to understanding how shifting social conditions will impact wildlife conservation in the future, but ultimately, to illuminating the very purposes to which conservation will be put (deciding what will we manage natural resources for). With this background, we discuss how human dimensions research can help address key conservation issues in the coming century.
1:50PM The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation: the Past, Present, and Future of Non-Profit Research Organizations
  Tim L. Hiller
Many non-profit (or more accurately, tax-exempt) organizations have long actively supported the tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (NAM). However, these organizations have typically focused on important conservation issues rather than conducting research, or have implemented relatively focused research activities that support their mission. Although the gap between applied research and management has been discussed since the birth of wildlife management itself, this topic has moved to the forefront in recent years. For example, there has been a recognized paradigm shift where university researchers less commonly conduct applied research, likely in response to promotion and tenure criteria, changing university culture and faculty interests, and other factors. In many states, this has resulted in a strained relationship between the state wildlife agency and respective land-grant university, as agency research needs are not being met due to faculty having decreased experience with applied research, lack of perspective of applying research to management decisions, and declining interest in small-scale projects. With insufficient research, agencies may be faced with making less informed and defensible decisions at a time when decisions are becoming increasingly scrutinized and litigated. Continued challenges may deteriorate state authority for managing wildlife, which in turn may also affect our current understanding of the tenets of NAM. However, the aforementioned paradigm shift offers an increasing opportunity to bridge the research-management gap and support agency needs. Non-profit research organizations, under appropriate conditions, may be a long-term solution to fill this gap. However, as with any new endeavor, substantial challenges and barriers exist which complicate, but may not prevent, successfully implementing this approach. I will describe what I continue to learn from founding and implementing a non-profit research institute with a national focus on applied wildlife research, and what I think the future may hold.
2:10PM The Role of Private Sector Wildlife Biologists in Management and Conservation of Waterfowl in North America.
  Thomas E. Moorman
The role of private sector wildlife biologists in management and conservation of waterfowl in North America.    For several decades, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has worked in cooperation with state wildlife agencies to manage waterfowl harvest, and to complete some related aspects of science to inform waterfowl management. Since 1986, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) has provided the structure within which waterfowl populations and habitat are managed. Since NAWMP inception, Ducks Unlimited (DU) has played in increasing role in aspects of waterfowl habitat conservation and research to inform habitat conservation through active participation in the NAWMP Joint Ventures. DU works to protect and restore habitat in partnership with trust agencies, and with private landowners, towards fulfilling habitat goals and objectives derived through NAWMP and its Joint Ventures. Additionally, DU works across North America and often has a leadership role in waterfowl habitat conservation in both Canada and Mexico. DU is also widely engaged in the research community, particularly academia, to complete waterfowl habitat and population science to inform decisions consistent with adaptive management. Hence, DU provides an excellent example of a non-governmental organization that employs professional biologists to help drive habitat conservation through partnerships with trust agencies as well as private landowners. DU’s has programs across North America that also engage private landowners in habitat conservation, which is particularly important give the heavy reliance of waterfowl on habitat in private ownership.
2:30PM Refreshment Break
3:20PM The Role and Relevance of Private Consulting to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation
  Michael S. Fishman
The emphasis of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (NAMWC) and Public Trust Doctrine (PTD) is on democratization of wildlife resources; that the resource belongs to and should be managed for the benefit of the public. Public agencies, therefore, are often touted as the executors of the Public Trust, as they administer the laws that preserve that Trust. Academics provide the 6th Pillar science of the NAMWC from their research, and NGOs are often seen as objective advocates for the Model, based on their non-profit status. Private consulting wildlife biologists, however, are often dismissed as underminers of the NAMWC and PTD, because they are supposed to work in their clients’ best interest, and they represent their clients, who are (often unfairly) characterized as despoilers of the environment at large. Agency staff and conservation organization biologists sometimes view consultants as adversaries, because they literally sit across the table with their clients in discussions. However, the real role of the consultant doesn’t materially differ from that of an agency biologist, an academic, or a NGO wildlife biologist. Consultants are facilitators who advise their clients on how to comply with regulatory requirements, and are often deeply involved in project design to meet that end. Consultants are practitioners in the field who conduct original field studies and research that contribute to the base of knowledge that supports important wildlife management techniques and decisions. Consultants are also advocates for conservation, educating their clients about conservation regulations and best management practices, as well as developing novel approaches to help clients achieve development goals in compliance with regulatory requirements that support the NAMWC. Thus, their role in implementation of the NAMWC and the PTD is in some ways a combination of the agency biologist, academic, and NGO biologist, but with a slightly different point of view.
3:40PM The Private Wildlife Control Industry: Enhancing Educational Opportunities for Wildlife Control Operators
  Paul D. Curtis; Raj Smith; Scott E. Hygnstrom
There has been tremendous growth in the wildlife control industry. State wildlife agency resources are stretched thin, and property owners often rely on private wildlife control operators (WCOs) to resolve conflicts. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation primarily deals with fair and equitable distribution of what once were scare wildlife resources. The model was not designed to deal with overabundant suburban wildlife and associated conflicts. Also, state wildlife agency staff are receiving increased public pressure to ensure that wildlife are handled in a safe, humane, and professional manner. States have developed a diversity of laws and regulations to deal with problem wildlife and there is little consistency among different states. We developed a basic wildlife damage management course for WCOs that can be adapted to most states. The course consists of 12 modules covering the basic principles of wildlife damage management. Many states have regulations that apply to individual wildlife species and we maintain more than 40 species accounts that can be adapted to the needs of specific states or regions. The training materials can be taught in classroom or field settings, and as a self-paced online course. We customize the content and exams to meet state training needs and regulations. State agency staff review the modules and content to ensure it meets their learning objectives and legal requirements. People who pass the exam receive a certificate of completion, which can be used for licensing and continuing education in selected states, or proof of competency in private pest management companies. State wildlife agencies meet their public trust obligations by providing oversight of wildlife control operators through training, licensing, and reporting activities. Wildlife damage management is a growing industry, and it is imperative to maintain high professional and educational standards to ensure public support for wildlife agency programs.
4:00PM The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, Wildlife Professionalism, and the Role of Wildlife Control Operators
  Stephen M. Vantassel
For over 100 years, the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (NAMWC) has provided the ideological grounding for restoring and preserving the continent’s wildlife resources. The return of many degraded wildlife populations and their habitats stand as evidence for the NAMWC’s beneficial effects. Since the 1980s, the NAMWC has become a victim of its own success. Many wildlife species have turned from being threatened and rare to abundant and nuisances. The National Wildlife Control Operators Association (NWCOA)is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve wildlife control operator (WCO) professionalism through training, certifications, and regulation. NWCOA has developed technical training programs that have established standards for the wildlife control industry. Unfortunately, wildlife agencies have been slow to embrace the role WCOs play in resolving human-wildlife conflicts. Perhaps this institutional reticence stems from the NAMWC’s opposition to the commercialization of wildlife, regulatory inertia, ignorance or even prejudice against “urban trappers.” Regardless of the reason(s), failure to create meaningful regulations for WCOs threatens the wildlife the NAMWC seeks to protect. Outline I. North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and the Success of Wildlife Management II. A Challenge of Abundant Wildlife III. National Wildlife Control Operators Association a. Training i. Conferences ii. Collaboration iii. Certification b. Certification Programs i. Standards ii. Categories 1. Wildlife Control Operator Training Course 2. Advanced Operator Training Course 3. Urban Goose Academy 4. Shooting in Sensitive Environments 5. Bat Standards iii. On the Horizon 1. Bird Control 2. Reptile Handling IV. Wildlife Control Operators—The Unwanted Child of NAMWC? V. Future: Obstacles and Opportunities a. Challenge of Animal Rights b. Need for Regulatory Improvements c. Contention among WCOs d. Remaining Needs
4:20PM Panel Discussion
 

 
Organizers: Lynn Braband, Cornell University, Rochester, NY
 
Supported by: Wildlife Damage Management Working Group; USGS Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units; Cornell University including: The NYS Integrated Pest Management Program The Department of Natural Resources; Wisconsin Center for Wildlife at the University of W

Symposium
Location: Cleveland CC Date: October 11, 2018 Time: 12:50 pm - 5:00 pm