Ethics of Endangered Species Protection: I. Some Considerations

Ethics of Endangered Species Protection: I. Some Considerations

This is a Wild Earth Guardians lynx map from 199-2007

Starting with the discussion of Extinction on National Forests here, John Persell and I have been discussing the ethics and morality of protecting endangered species. John gets many points with me for seeking common ground through dialogue and is a good model for respectful discourse.

Here’s his original question

“Is it never morally or ethically wrong to let species go extinct in any circumstances, in your personal opinion? Even purposeful eradication? I’m trying to get a sense of where the common ground is if the only barrier to extirpation or extinction is legal. If those wishing to protect the diversity of species that exists or formerly existed across an area cannot appeal to shared values because those values are not in fact shared, legal action (litigation) may be the only tool available, a tool that you generally deem inappropriate for public lands disputes. So where might the common ground be found?”

Here’s my answer and here’s his response. The great thing about a discussion like this is that we can enter deeper into it and go in different directions and there is always time.

As I read his question again, I think it might be morally or ethically wrong in some circumstances and not in others. Here are some things I’d consider and weigh in making any judgment calls.

1) Reality of Differentness: “how distinct are these really?”. Is it generally agreed it is a subspecies or species? Do different measurements lead to different conclusions (say different physical and genetic measures?)

2) Total Number of Critters Black Footed Ferret (once 18?) is a different order of magnitude than, say, Sage Grouse or sugar pine. There is also the related question of “does Canada count?”. If the climate warms and creatures move to Canada, they’re not really extinct are they? Or is extinct relative, like extinct in San Juan County, extinct in Colorado, extinct in the US, and so on…

2) Likelihood of Intervention Efficacyy.How sure are we that our interventions will help? Say, stopping hunting fishers is very likely to boost their populations. But different vegetation interventions with or without fire scenarios? Harder to say. Do we get evidence from different kinds of scientific studies and models? Do they agree? If not, how can we trust which ones? If, say a species is the victim of an infectious disease, should we stop all changes to habitat to make things better for the species when they could potentially all die from the disease anyway? Similarly, if they are sensitive to climate change, we could stop all vegetation manipulation and it might not help.

3) Impacts on People. What are the impacts of the interventions on people? Which people? Will they lose jobs, or will their energy bills go up? Will the jobs/product production be transferred to our northern neighbor or some other country? Will that impact the ecosystem or species there? How? Are their security issues related to our country’s need for certain products (say, energy?).

4) Biological factors. Is this species the end of a rare lineage? (gene conservation) Is this species some kind of “keystone”, e.g. forms burrows that others use? (may take a while for another species to fill the niche and meanwhile other species may also suffer).

What do you all think of these? Do others have other criteria to apply?


via A New Century of Forest Planning

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