Building Policies for Stewardship

A dream?

We as humans and especially here at SFS like to picture an ideal government and hope that as we learn more about science and political theory, government can take steps in that direction. By any measure, governance within the United States is far from meeting the theoretical ideal. Implementation and enforcement are often pointed at as more important factors than policy design in terms of effectiveness in meeting policy goals. But if we ever had the chance to change the design, here’s four principles that will help make sure we move in the right direction.

Addressing Scale: Appropriate information gathering

If scale is unified at the ecosystem level – bounded by hydrological and geophysical boundaries – then information about the system must also represent the ecosystem scale. Fisheries management, for example, requires information on all the potential factors that could affect stock size – habitat, water quality, fishing pressure, competition with other native and nonnative species, productivity of the food web, etc. Furthermore, the total fishery stock in an area would have to be considered together – total biomass of market species, for example. These types of measurements will delineate threats to conservation to a particular species versus threats to the health of the whole system. Read More

State of the Field: Too big, too small, just right – the Goldilocks Conundrum of Conservation

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scale can really change perspective... take this fruit fly eye, for example, at scanning electron microscope scale - it looks like an army of hairs

Scale seems like a simple term with a simple definition, a concept certainly not up for debate. Well, digging just a little deeper we find that the nuances of a term that is used in almost every discipline make it important to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Furthermore, it’s important to make sure that the concept gets some attention, some time on the agenda, and some problem-solving energy.

In the world of conservation, scale mismatches are often a visible failure of policies, leading to recent calls for ecosystem-based management that trace scales of governance according to ecosystem boundaries instead of political boundaries. This has led to the existence of “peace parks” protecting wildlands that cross national borders, watershed management plans, and attention to habitat protection in environmental species conservation, to name a few examples. However, matching governance to ecosystem scale is only one type of scale adjustment that needs to occur.

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