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MANAGING FOR ABUNDANCE

here was a time in Americas history when natural resources were so abundant that the thought of ever depleting them seemed absurd. However, with the Industrial Revolution and increased human population, it became obvious that people not only were capable of harming the environment, but they were doing so at an alarming rate. As we depleted our resources, competition to exploit the few remaining resources predictably escalated. From these excesses was born an awakening that came to be known as the Conservation Movement. Under the guidance of great visionaries such as Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, we began a process of conserving and restoring our once great natural resources. Fundamental to this model was the concept of managing on a sustained yield basis. Sustained yield is the application of time-tested agricultural principles to the natural environment. In other words managing the yield (harvest) of renewable natural resources in such away that they are available at the same (or better) level to future generations. Some 25 years later, as the framers of Alaskas constitution contemplated the proper management of Alaskas vast natural resources, they took the sustained yield principle to a new level. Not only would they protect these precious assets for future generations, they would do so for the maximum benefit of Alaskas people (Article VIII, Sections 1-4, Alaska State Constitution). Upon this foundation, the concept of abundance-based management was built. Such management requires man to work with the land to produce a yield that is not only sustainable, but is also maximized for human benefit. To further define and promote this concept, the Alaska Legislature passed the Intensive Management Law. This important statute defines intensive management as management of an identified big game prey population consistent with sustained yield through active management measures to enhance, extend, and develop the population to maintain high levels or provide

Producing A Bounty For All Users To Enjoy

by Corey Rossi

The author with a small portion of Alaskas sustainable yield. for higher levels of human harvest, including control of predation and prescribed or planned use of fire and other habitat improvement techniques. AS 16.05.255 (j) (2)(4)(5). At this point, it is important to note that sustainable yield is a range of production, rather than an exact defined quantity from a population at maximum carrying capacity every year. For example, a given piece of land may produce a long-term average harvest of 25 moose per year. In perfect years this land might produce 50 moose, and in horrible years perhaps none. The production depends on the annual effects of environmental resistance to population growth. In addition, if the land has the capacity to yield 25 moose per year on a sustainable basis, that same piece of land can yield only one moose, as well. Thus the range of sustainable yield for moose on that particular piece of land is 1-25 moose per year. Critics of Alaskas Constitution and Intensive Management Law theorize that managing fish and wildlife populations for maximum harvest (often referred to as maximum sustainable yield, or MSY) could be problematic. Their theory argues that managing at maximum is a bad idea because it assumes that all individuals in a population are identical, and that natural fluctuations and data gaps make it difficult for managers to determine the exact population of a species at a given moment. Consequently, many prefer the concepts of optimum sustainable yield and/or maximum average yield, as both terms attempt to apply factors that allow managers to maintain populations at a level that is high, but is still somewhere below MSY. Yet, their argument ignores the operative word within the MSY concept sustainable. The sustainability of a management strategy is paramount. Any strategy

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that produces frequent collapses in a stock is by definition, not sustainable. Perhaps more importantly, any true management strategy requires active hands on participation by a manager to compensate for periodic environmental resistance (e.g., weather, poor habitat, over-hunting, predation, etc.). Simply put, the maximum sustainable yield principle requires that managers be willing to assume the risks and responsibilities of trying to maximize human benefits by intervening in natural systems over the longer term. Whether or not one supports the concept of MSY, it is quite apparent that the intent of Alaskas Constitution and the Intensive Management Law is to maintain our fish and game populations at the upper end of the range of sustainability. In other words, we are to manage for abundance, rather than mediocrity (or worse yet, scarcity). The concept of managing for abundance is also deeply rooted in the culture and traditions of Alaska. Throughout the state, Alaskans rely heavily on the bounty produced by their natural resources. Central to these traditions is the premise that mankind has not only the ability, but also the obligation to manipulate natural systems for the benefit of people, as well as for the benefit of the resource itself. 30 sportsmens voice sUmmer 2009

Naturally, when resources become scarce, increased competition for the remaining resources exacerbates the challenge. Throw in rising energy costs and a high unemployment rate, and the stage is set for impassioned human conflict, as well as further resource depletion. This is precisely why the Palin Administrations emphasis on management of our renewable resources (especially fish and game) to produce abundance is so important. It has been said, A rising tide raises all ships. When properly applied, abundance-based fish and game management benefits all user groups in the true tradition of multiple use management. So, how does Alaska apply this concept? The first step is a public process where the Board of Game, working with the Department of Fish and Game, identifies the species and populations that need to be increased to meet the human need. Next, they identify the environmental resistance inhibiting the growth/maintenance of the population. Finally, a plan is developed and implemented to mitigate the identified resistance to the extent possible. A well-conceived plan defines the measure(s) of success, and provides a mechanism to monitor success over time. The plan may involve the manipulation of several factors and employ several techniques simultaneously. Selection of these techniques must always consider humaneness, selectivity, efficiency, and cost effectiveness. While some techniques are more controversial than others, all are management tools and should be used appropriately with proper respect for the resource(s) involved. For example, reducing the number wolves in a given area should never become a war on wolves, any more than harvesting moose should become a war on moose. It is important to remember that moose are to wolves, what vegetation is to moose food. As we manage for abundance, we must realize that if we have more moose than the habitat can support, we must reduce the number of moose, or increase the habitat, or both. The same is true of moose and wolves. All are important components within the abundance management concept. Alaskan abundance management embodies the realization that humans are not merely intruders in the environment, nor are they merely guardians. In Alaska, the role of humans is one of thoughtful intervention to produce abundant and sustainable populations of fish and game for all user groups to enjoy.

Corey Rossi is a theAssistant Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, as well as a former Assistant State Director of USDAs Wildlife Services Program in Alaska. Portions of this article appeared on February 21st, 2009 as a COMPASS: Other points of view article in the Anchorage Daily News.