COLUMBUS, Ohio When a species recovers enough to be removed from the federal endangered species list, the public trust doctrine the principle that government must conserve natural resources for the public good should guide state management of wildlife, scientists say.
In the Sept. 30 issue of the journal Science, the researchers note that the public trust doctrine holds that certain natural resources, including wildlife, have no owners and therefore belong to all citizens. So, they add, when federal statutory law no longer offers protection to a species, the public trust doctrine imposes upon states an obligation to conserve the species for their citizens.
The researchers cite the case of the gray wolf, which lost federal protection in the northern Rocky Mountains last spring under a rare Congressional legislative rider. This rider was passed after courts had reversed three previous U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service attempts to delist the wolf in the region, which includes Idaho, Montana and parts of Oregon, Washington and Utah.
The merits of protecting gray wolves have been hotly debated for years in the northern Rocky Mountains, where public opinion varies considerably among livestock owners, hunters and wildlife advocates. Idaho and Montana have launched public hunts aimed at reducing wolf populations since federal protections were lifted. Wolf advocates fear that heavy-handed "lethal management" of wolves could deplete the population so rapidly that the species will require federal protections again. Under the Endangered Species Act, the federal government monitors a species for at least five years after it is delisted, but state wildlife agencies take over management.
Lost in these bitter arguments is any attempt to clarify state agencies' obligation to their citizens, said Jeremy Bruskotter, assistant professor in Ohio State University's School of Environment and Natural Resources and lead author of the Sci
|Contact: Jeremy Bruskotter|
Ohio State University