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 with Rob Miskosky

The Model

Most of us are aware of the plight North America’s fish and wildlife faced during the mid-1800s. Due to market hunting and exploitation, it is well known that almost all wildlife in North America was on the verge of extinction and that something had to be done. It was outdoorsmen such as Teddy Roosevelt and George Grinnell, both founders of the Boone and Crockett Club that organized hunters and anglers to push for the establishment of hunting regulations and the protection of habitat that fish and wildlife depended upon. Their work led to the establishment of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which is considered by many to be one of the greatest conservation success stories of all time, taking wildlife from being nearly non-existent to the healthy state it resides in today.

The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation brought an end to market hunters.

The Model exists on two basic principles – that fish and wildlife belongs to all of us, and that fish and wildlife needs to be managed in a way that guarantees healthy populations in perpetuity. The seven major tenets that make up the core principles of the Model are as follows:

  1. Wildlife resources are conserved and held in trust for all citizens.
  2. Commerce in dead wildlife is eliminated.
  3. Wildlife is allocated according to democratic rule of law.
  4. Wildlife may only be killed for a legitimate, non-frivolous purpose.
  5. Wildlife is an international resource.
  6. Every person has an equal opportunity under the law to participate in hunting and fishing.
  7. Scientific management is the proper means for wildlife conservation.

Each of these tenets guides wildlife professionals and organizations to this day, including the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, of which Alberta Environment and Parks is a member.

However, in recent years, the Model has come under scrutiny, as the validity of certain tenets is being questioned. As an example, tenet 1 – Wildlife resources are conserved and held in trust for all citizens. With hunt farms, Indigenous rights, land access issues etc., tenet 1 is certainly being tested. A strengthening of the Public Trust Doctrine, which holds that certain natural resources, including wildlife, belong to all Canadians and cannot be privately owned or controlled, would help. Currently, difficulty to access wildlife and private ownership of wildlife is becoming more and more the norm, threatening tenet 1.

Another tenet under duress is tenet 2 – Commerce in dead wildlife is eliminated. Short of outfitted hunting and the legal sale of animal parts, the commercial sale of wild meat is generally illegal in Canada. However, there is the belief that the regulated sale of wild meat would create a wider appreciation of wildlife, creating further incentives for wildlife conservation. As well, where animals are abundant and need to be managed, the sale of this wildlife would add dollars to conservation efforts.

For me, tenet 6 – Every person has an equal opportunity under the law to participate in hunting and fishing – is the tenet in most need of support. Animal-rights activists work tirelessly to end hunting, pulling numerous stunts that should be illegal but are simply ignored by the law. And landowners want to see user-pay models, which in turn could create a scenario where only the wealthy have the opportunity to hunt or fish.

The Model is in need of re-evaluation, of that there is no argument. But its re-evaluation must strengthen and improve upon its founding principles, without moving too far towards wildlife markets and landowner incentives. ■

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