Relevance of Sustainable Use of Wildlife in a Changing Society



Symposia will be available on-demand on their scheduled date, then again at the conclusion of the conference.

Sustainable use of wildlife is a core tenant of wildlife management frameworks worldwide and achieving sustainability is a major focus of multiple international conventions. However, changing societal values toward wildlife challenge the acceptability and social license for sustainable use policies. This session will explore how wildlife stakeholders and wildlife conservation professionals perceive sustainable use in its myriad forms; simply assuming we can continue with the current paradigm linking sustainable use and conservation is not tenable. This section will discuss perspectives from agencies, universities, students, young professionals, and international entities.


The Changing Narrative: Use of Animals and the Global Mind
Shane P. Mahoney
Human history is, at its core, a record of our changing narratives. It teaches us that societal change is relentless and inevitable. A component of such change, and a crucial narrative for planetary health and human progress, centers upon our relationship with other animals. Long embedded in a perceived dichotomous relationship with nature, as dominion seeker or custodian, humanity has struggled to find position in a world where evolutionary drives and intellectual reflection are not always in step. As biodiversity dwindles and larger proportions of humanity lose direct, practical engagements with nature, the balance between these parts of our complex selves predictably shifts. While part of the resolution between our perceived roles has found compromise in the concept of sustainable use, where animals are harvested without imperiling populations or species, this narrative too is subject to tension and change. There is nothing in the sustainable use narrative that renders it impervious to social grinding. Its center of balance also shifts within the wider flux of cultural, economic and political discourse. Today, there can be little doubt that sustainable use is being pushed back by a phalanx of counter-valuations that include animal rights and, more prominently, a rising awareness of animal sentience and capacity to think and know. To view this new narrative as the exclusive domain of specialists or extremists is a mistake. Our increasing empathy for animals is a revolutionary force, global in its reach and effectively intersecting with international conventions, treaties and funding mechanisms in ways that will undoubtedly change how all animal use, including sustainable use, is perceived, defined, regulated and accepted. Like the recent COVID-19 pandemic, this new narrative has gone global and we will struggle to adjust to its dimensions and force.
Modernization Is Changing How People View Wildlife and Wildlife Management
Jeremy T. Bruskotter
Conservation of wildlife in the United States is historically linked to consumptive uses (e.g., hunting, trapping), which provide both a means of generating funding and controlling populations. However, research indicates that values pertinent to wildlife conservation have been shifting in ways that will likely challenge traditional uses of wildlife management and require public agencies to adapt their approach to wildlife management. I review the empirical evidence linking societal modernization to shifts in conservation-related values and associated behaviors. Existing research indicates that structural differences at the state level (i.e., higher levels of education, income and urbanization within a state) are associated with lower proportions of ‘traditionalist’ residents, who espouse values and attitudes that are consistent with consumptive uses of wildlife. This research also shows that the proportion of traditionalists declined in 19 Western states over a roughly 15-year period (2004-2018), and this shift is driven by changes in the same structural factors. Related cross-sectional research suggests modernization may also affect (i) the tendency to anthropomorphize animals, (ii) participation in hunting, and even (iii) country-level success in the conservation of some species. Collectively, these changes are likely to require wildlife managers to find new means of funding conservation activities and creative ways to manage overabundant populations.
Wildlife Conservation Professionals and Sustainable Use: A Comparison of Past and Present Beliefs
Shawn Riley; Rachel T. Menale; Zachery E. Lowe; John F. Organ
Human population growth, urbanization, modernization, hyper-rapid social media and other large-scale sociological changes in most of the world are affecting the way people interact with and value wildlife. Commensurate with these geographical and demographical changes, the values, beliefs, and attitudes of stakeholders towards wildlife and uses of wildlife are also shifting. Trends in North America appear to be bending toward mutualistic and protectionist orientations and away from utilitarian and consumptive uses of wildlife. Changes in societal attitudes towards wildlife could create an alignment issue between wildlife professionals and society. Our objective was to assess and compare change-over-time in beliefs and attitudes of The Wildlife Society (TWS) members, as a proxy for practicing wildlife professionals, towards consumptive uses of wildlife. We present results to a winter 2020 web-based survey (n= 3,145) that closely approximates TWS membership demographically and geographically and were received from professionals in every type of wildlife conservation agency within every U.S. state and most Canadian Provinces/Territories as well as 13 additional countries throughout the world. We then compare these data to findings from a nearly identical 1998 mail-back survey of TWS members. Our results indicate wildlife conservation professionals currently express as broad of a spectrum of beliefs about consumptive uses of wildlife as do public stakeholders, much as they did 2 decades ago. The 2020 sample, however, revealed an increase in prevalence of protectionist beliefs toward uses of wildlife and an orientation slightly more towards animal rights than 1998 members. Nonetheless, similar high and comparable proportions (i.e., 90+%) expressed acceptance of regulated hunting and trapping. Factors affecting acceptance are discussed as is a full comparison of TWS member beliefs past and present relative to what is known about changes in value orientations of stakeholders in wildlife conservation.
Sustainable Use of Wildlife in Mexico
Raul Valdez, Ph.D.; Luis A. Tarango-Arámbula,, Ph.D.; Fidel Hernandez; Florentino Chillopa Morales, Ph.D.
The sustainable use of wildlife in Mexico is critical if Mexico’s rich biodiversity is to be maintained. Mexico is a megadiverse country and ranks fifth in biodiversity in the world. The federal initiative, Program of Wildlife Conservation and Productive Diversification in the Rural Sector, promotes conservation opportunities by involving stakeholders in management decisions and forms the basis for Mexico’s sustainable use of wildlife. Integral to this program is the creation of a system of wildlife management units that emphasize wildlife conservation and sustainable use (officially titled Wildlife Management and Conservation Units or UMAs) under Mexico’s General Wildlife Law. This affords ejidos (communal properties allocated to groups of individuals, usually farmers) and private landowners economic incentives to manage wildlife populations and their habitats by facilitating the integration of wildlife-management programs into livestock, forestry and agricultural schemes. Successful examples of sustainable use of wildlife exist in northern Mexico for species such as desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), and wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo); however, sustainable use poses much greater challenges in the central and southern portion of the country and likely requires alternative management strategies. Here we present success stories and discuss challenges to sustainable use of wildlife in Mexico.
Perspectives of Sustainable Use by Native Peoples in the US
Serra Jeanette Hoagland
Sustainable use of natural resources, including the harvesting and procurement of wildlife, is deeply engraved in indigenous lifeways, practices and worldviews. Since time immemorial Native people have upheld their reciprocal and mutual relationship with native fauna and flora to sustain their communities. Fortunately, today our broader society is moving past the era of discounting or ignoring native people’s historical and current relationship to the land and we are now entering an era of recognizing how Native worldviews can inform and even advance the concepts and practices around sustainable use of wildlife. This presentation reflects on inherent values of sustainability and how they correlate with indigenous worldviews and traditions. Further, we discuss recommendations for appropriately including indigenous approaches to sustainable management under scenarios of changing societal values and perspectives by utilizing traditional stories and case studies from Indian country. We will emphasize and highlight current wildlife management projects from federally recognized Native American tribal wildlife departments.
U.S. State Agency Perspectives on Changing Attitudes Toward Sustainable Use of Wildlife
Jonathan Mawdsley
State fish and wildlife agencies have a long history of supporting and managing the sustainable use of North America’s fish and wildlife species for the benefit of hunters, anglers, trappers, and the general public. Sustainable use programs have contributed to many wildlife conservation success stories throughout North America, including the restoration of large ungulate species such as white-tailed deer and elk, the successful re-establishment of North American river otter throughout much of its historic range, and the delisting of American alligator under the U. S. federal Endangered Species Act. Funds derived from license sales and excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment have funded significant terrestrial and aquatic management activities, many of which benefit a broader spectrum of fish and wildlife species beyond those taxa which are actively harvested under sustainable use programs. While public engagement in many sustainable use programs remains strong, changing societal attitudes towards the sustainable use and harvest of fish and wildlife have certainly created challenges for the state fish and wildlife agencies. Individual agencies have responded in a variety of ways to these challenges: by engaging in outreach and education efforts to explain the value and conservation benefits which ae associated with sustainable use; by attempting to interest new and lapsed hunters, anglers, and trappers in renewing their participation in sustainable use programs; and by attempting to engage broader constituencies and more diverse audiences in agency activities, including newer non-consumptive approaches to interacting with wildlife, as well as more traditional sustainable use activities.
Sustainableuse and Wildlife Conservation Advocacy: Adapting to Changing Societal Values
Ed Arnett
Advocacy, by definition, is defined as public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy. An advocate is a person who speaks, writes or argues in support or defense of a person or cause, and to garner that needed public support. Decker et al. (2017) argued that sustainable use of wildlife will likely endure as long as society 1) believes the long-term sustainability of wildlife is not jeopardized, and 2) accepts practices associated with such use as legitimate. Are there in lies our challenge as a profession, as Decker et al. (2017) noted that these two criteria require constant attention. Indeed, an ever-changing society yields greater diversity – and divergence – of public knowledge, attitudes, and acceptance of what constitutes sustainable use of wildlife and the practices implemented to achieve it. Here, I will discuss approaches to wildlife conservation advocacy from a traditional wildlife management and sustainable use perspective and argue why we need to continually embrace and adapt to societal changes if we are to retain wildlife management, conservation and sustainable use as we know it today.
The Changing Face of Wildlife Students and Their Perspectives Toward Sustainable Use
Mark McConnell; Dean F. Stauffer; Brent Bibles; Nate Bickford; John W. Edwards; John Perrine
Today’s wildlife student often differs substantially from those at the first Earth Day in 1970. We take a retrospective look at how student demographics and perspectives related to sustainable wildlife use have evolved. We draw upon decades of teaching experience, combined with surveys of student attitudes, to evaluate how student demographics and perceptions have changed over time. Fifty years ago, the typical wildlife student was white, male, fished and likely hunted and had a rural or small-town upbringing. The profession at that time focused on producing sustainable populations of game species for harvest; wildlife species that were “non-game” typically were studied in biology, zoology or ecology programs. Our profession has evolved to be more inclusive of all wild species, recognizing the importance of endangered, threatened and other non-game species. The current wildlife student demographic is much more diverse in gender, cultural background, and comes with a wider range of value orientations. Relatively few students have grown up hunting or fishing, although many enjoy hiking and camping. Many students have developed their interest in wildlife through media outlets such as Animal Planet rather than through personal experience, especially hunting and/or fishing; they are most likely to come from suburban and large urban areas. Many of today’s students entering a program do not participate in sustainable use of wildlife, and often do not consider sustainable consumption of wildlife as a valid use of the resource. We discuss these changes in greater detail and suggest ways that we can help all students appreciate the need to manage some wildlife populations for sustainable use.
New Professional’s View of Sustainable Use and Wildlife Conservation
Andrea Darracq
Sustainability is a term that can have a different meaning(s) for each person and this problem is not unique to wildlife. Differences may be caused by experiences, generational views, cultural backgrounds, and emotions. Confusion is compounded by a lack of consensus of a definition for the term. With multiple definitions of the word “sustainable” available, the term is often understood and applied differently by organizations. For this talk, I will start with using the definition of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). Sustainable use of biodiversity is “to use natural resources at a rate that the Earth can renew them.” The CBD makes it clear that meeting the needs of both present and future generations is an important underlying concept rooted within their definition. Moreover, the Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management defines sustainable wildlife management as “the sound management of wildlife species to sustain populations and [their] habitat over time, considering the socio-economic needs of human populations”. Within this context and expanding on these definitions relative to my own background and views, such as the importance of considering the alignment of “wildness” and sustainable use, I will discuss one young wildlife professional’s perspective on sustainable use of wildlife. I will come to this talk as a young mother, a member of a generation most often blamed for today’s societal issues including threats related to sustainable use of wildlife, a researcher that is keenly interested in wildlife management, a teacher of and mentor for our future wildlife professionals, and an admirer of our natural resources who focuses on conserving wild animals.
TUESDAY 1:00PM – 2:00PM Panel Discussion

Organizers: Darren Miller, NCASI, Mississippi State, MS; Shane Mahoney, Conservation Visions, St. Johns, Newfoundland
Supported by: Hunting, Trappng and Conservation Working Group, International Wildlife Management Working Group

Location: Virtual Date: September 28, 2020 Time: -