Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the state agency that manages fish and wildlife in Colorado, recently decided to spend $4.5 million to kill black bears and mountain lions in two regions in the state in an attempt to increase the mule deer population. The controversial plan has been examined and debated for more than a year. Ecological studies were reviewed, biologists consulted, and the public were allowed to comment. Conservation groups including the Sierra Club, the Humane Society, The Center For Biological Diversity, Cougar Fund and other groups all vocally came out against the plan, and a trio of Colorado State wildlife biologists Joel Berger, Kevin Crooks and Barry R. Noon, delivered a joint letter against the plan that read in part:
“CPW’s plans to test the effects of predator removal are not based on science, and run counter to prior scientific evidence published by CPW’s own researchers. We are concerned that CPW’s proposals are based on a narrow response to a vocal (and diminishing) minority of the general public focused on predator control as means to increase hunting opportunities".
The majority consensus of the experts was that the plan would be ineffective at best, and have far reaching and unpredictable consequences at worst. Ultimately, the wildlife commissioners voted unanimously to proceed with the plan.
Personally, this entire story is very disappointing to me. So many groups here in the US, and internationally, are using new science and a better understanding of holistic ecology to try to rebuild ecosystems and create wildlife corridors. Today we have such a better understanding of the important roll that large predators play in the health of any given environment. Everything in any given ecoSYSTEM is connected. If you remove one component, everything else is affected. In this case, it's not just about the mountain lions and the deer, it's how each of those species influence all of the other species around them, and how each of those species influence those around them, etc.
With this decision, the cynical side of me wants to ask why we have scientists at all. If we have these non-scientists making a decision based on money or politics or even their own opinion and rejecting the science, then what's the point?
This isn't 1880...