Two recent essays in the New York Times made me think deeply about the importance of birds as individuals in their own right, in various and diverse ecosystems, as models in the growing field of extinction biology, in the broad field of conservation biology in general, and in the growing field of compassionate conservation (see also "Ignoring Nature No More: Compassionate Conservation at Work"). Another essay also published in The New York Times called "Conservation, or Curation?" by noted conservationists John Vucetich and Michael Nelson also made me think about various aspects of conservation biology for this very important brief piece calls attention to a "recently announced new interpretation of the Endangered Species Act [by United States Fish and Wildlife Service] that severely limits its reach and retreats from the conservation ethic that healthy landscapes depend on native plants and animals."
Should cormorants be shot to save salmon?
Felicity Barringer's essay called "Taking Up Arms Where Birds Feast on Buffet of Salmon" deals with a current situation in Oregon's Columbia River. Salmon living in the river were killed off due to hydroelectric dams and are now increasing in number, and double-crested cormorants, who like to eat salmon, have become aware of this and are a threat to the fish. So, what needs to be done to control cormorant populations? Many people, including conservation biologists, say, "shoot the birds." Others, such as the National Audubon Society's Stan Senner argues that killing some of the birds who make up 25 percent of the birds' western population "is an extreme measure, totally inappropriate." Mr. Senner "said it was possible to shoo them away, noting: 'They came from somewhere else. They can go back to somewhere else.'" He also notes, "We're not persuaded they have fully explored ways of improving habitats elsewhere or other means of dispersing" these birds.