The Florida Wildlifer

The newest issue of our newsletter is available for download here.  Below is an excerpt.


President's Message

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Dear Members, In North America, wildlife is considered a public resource, owned by no one. This is one of the two fundamental principles that sets apart wildlife management efforts in the U.S. and Canada from those elsewhere in the world. The other fundamental principle that guides wildlife management here is that wildlife is managed in a way that ensures populations are sustained for future generations. The healthy status of wildlife in North America relative to other countries is widely attributed to adoption of these principles long ago.

It was hunters and anglers that took the lead in shaping this general policy when it was loosely developed over a century ago. As many wildlife species experienced catastrophic declines, and several seemed on the verge of extinction, hunters and anglers realized they needed to take responsibility for the stewardship of the natural resources they cherished. A core group of visionary individuals recognized that if limits were not imposed on harvests, some species were likely to go extinct as a direct result of human action. These individuals also realized that scientific research was needed to generate a better understanding of wildlife, to serve as the basis for decisions on managing habitat and the animals themselves. More recently, this policy framework was formalized into a group of seven concepts referred to collectively as the “North American Model of Wildlife Conservation”. These seven tenets are widely agreed upon by wildlife professionals as essential to perpetuating wildlife for future generations. The seven principles are that (1) wildlife resources are not owned by anyone, but rather are a public resource held in trust for the benefit of present and future generations; (2) commercial markets for game are not allowed because they would privatize a common resource and could eventually lead to population declines; (3) wildlife are allocated to the public by law (as opposed to aristocracy, market principles, or other status), with public input to the lawmaking process expected to ensure equitable access; (4) wildlife are only killed for legitimate purposes; (5) wildlife are an international resource managed cooperatively across borders; (6) science is used to inform wildlife policy; and (7) hunting is open to all. Our parent organization, The Wildlife Society, supports and promotes these core principles (link here). In fact, TWS goes beyond simple support and calls upon all members to increase awareness of these principles among the public. That’s why they’re highlighted here today.

As mentioned previously, it was the troubling declines in game species that prompted our forefathers to initially embark on conservation efforts. Today, many Floridians are not in tune with wildlife the way those hunters were that became the first conservationists over a century ago. This could lead to trouble when policy decisions depend upon support from the general public. I encourage you to think about what you can do to make wildlife relevant to a broad spectrum of society and ensure public acceptance of wildlife conservation practices. How do we counter the dwindling connection between people and nature? How do we make certain the public understands why substantial funding is allocated towards battling the spread of invasive plants and animals? How do we garner support for management practices, such as prescribed fire, which may seem dangerous or damaging to those who don’t understand ecological principles? How do we convince others that rare species are worth investing in? To maintain our relevance as wildlife professionals we need to find new ways to communicate effectively to the public about these pressing issues.

With a membership base of >200 individuals, FLTWS plays a unique role as the state’s sole organization of professional wildlife biologists. The bylaws of our chapter direct us “to develop and promote sound stewardship of Florida's wildlife resources”. If we are to be effective in this task of promoting sound stewardship of Florida’s wildlife resources, we must rise to the challenge of applying the principles above in the face of the many threats facing Florida’s wildlife. The social aspects of conservation are growing increasingly complex, as the range of public expectations regarding conservation efforts expands, and apathy towards the natural world grows.

The diversity of FLTWS members is one of our great strengths for managing modern-day challenges facing wildlife. The broad range of perspectives and expertise encompassed by our vast professional community enables us to respond in meaningful ways to emerging conservation issues. Our heterogeneity is reflected in the executive board you recently elected, comprised of individuals representing the private sector, state and federal agencies, as well as academia. We hope that when we as a professional society are called up to weigh in on conservation issues, you consider bringing your insight, skills, and perspective to the table so that collectively we express an opinion that represents all. FLTWS is committed to addressing issues that affect the current and future status of wildlife in our state, using sound science and your expertise as the basis for our decisions.

Holly Ober
President, FLTWS