Lessons in Wildlife Management
Initially, wildlife management in the United States was skewed toward protection. In the early 1900s, for example, wildlife managers attempted to preserve a mule deer herd in the remote Kaibab Plateau of Arizona. Hunting was banned, and predators were destroyed. The result was severe overpopulation, habitat destruction, and mass starvation.
The Kaibab Plateau was opened to hunting in 1929, which brought the population into balance with the habitat. Today, a large, healthy herd of mule deer inhabits the area.
Around the same period, a similar event took place in Pennsylvania. Deer had been brought into the state after the native population was thought to be extinct. With most of the predators eliminated and little hunting allowed, the herd grew out of control. As the food supply dwindled, thousands of white-tailed deer starved to death.
From these hard lessons, wildlife managers learned that there is more to conservation than just protecting wildlife. They discovered that nature overproduces its game resources and that good wildlife management yields a surplus that can be harvested by hunters.
The North American Model of Fish and Wildlife Conservation
In the first two decades of the 20th century, sportsmen from the United States and Canada developed a set of guiding principles for managing fish and wildlife resources. Called the North American Model of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, these seven principles provide the foundation for the success of fish and wildlife conservation in North America.
- Native fish and wildlife are public property. The government holds them in trust for the benefit of all people.
- Wildlife cannot be slaughtered for commercial use. This policy eliminates trafficking in dead game animals.
- Every citizen in good standing—regardless of wealth, social standing, or land ownership—is allowed to participate in the harvest of fish and wildlife within guidelines set by lawmakers.
- Fish and wildlife shall be taken by legal and ethical means, in the spirit of "fair chase," and with good cause.
- Fish and wildlife are an international resource and shall be managed cooperatively across state and province boundaries.
- Fish and wildlife management, use, and conservation shall be based on sound scientific knowledge and principles.
- Hunting, fishing, and trapping shall be democratic so that all persons—rich and poor alike—have the opportunity to participate.