Monday, October 1, 2012

Killing Wolves to Save Them

Derek Mead of Motherboard has a great post about the reintroduction of wolves into Montana and Wyoming, and the evolving rules surrounding their management:
With the contentiousness of the ESA process, the end result is what we’re seeing right now in the wolf ruling: Because a lot of people don’t want wolves around, states have worked with the Fish and Wildlife Service to figure out how few wolves they can keep around while keeping the population relatively stable — and thus within the letter of the law. But that type of management, focused on the lower feasible limit of a population, ignores the effects a single species has on its environment.
Obviously this new regime has some technocratic issues to muddle through regarding the proper balance of ecosystem health and economic health. But the fact that self-interested groups such as farmers attempt to influence the policy process in order to capture economic benefits reveals some nice insights about government regulation. Counter to the conventional wisdom, businesses sometimes want to acquire regulation in order to make it more difficult for competitors to enter their market. Similarly, regulation and the big bureaucratic infrastructure that often accompanies it provides a certain amount of protection against disruptive technology and social changes.

What's true of interest groups outside of government is also true of interest groups within government: environmentalists who want the reintroduction of wolves to be permanent and inviolable have a strong incentive to acquire expansive regulation. Keeping the policy status quo is always harder than changing it, and by establishing a hunting season with licences and all that, the existence of wolves as a major species becomes further entrenched socially, bureaucratically, and politically.

Additional Reading: Yale's Environment360 blog on the crucial role of top predators in ecosystems

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