One of the more fascinating—and troubling—undercurrents of the conservation movement is that it has a clear, unalterable lid: We want to conserve species and their habitats, but not at the expense of our own well-being. In other words, when it’s them v. us, the furry critters will get it every time (a phenomenon handily illustrated by just about every creature movie).
Now, as Michael Wall reports in ScienceNOW Daily News, this man-beast conflict is coming to a dramatic head in Nepal, where villagers have undergone an extensive campaign to rebuild degraded forests in an effort to restore the dwindling tiger population. The giant cats—or what remains of them—have been shoved for years into smaller and smaller spaces in between villages, fields, and roads.
To keep the species from perishing entirely, for over a decade the Nepalese government has been working to expand the tiger reserves. Local communities have also joined in, managing the recovering forests and learning to allocate now-smaller resources like firewood and livestock grounds. In fact, the program has been a near-model of conservation in action, with the tiger parks giving back portions of their revenues to the sacrificing communities.
The only party that isn’t complacent in this whole affair, unfortunately, is the tigers. With their numbers on the rise—and the number of humans surrounding them not decreasing—they’re attacking people in record numbers.
Yesterday we noted that dear old (and still around) President Bush was working overtime to pass environmental regulations—many of which would harm, not help, said environment—before he’s shown the proverbial boot. But to be fair, not every rule he’s looking to enact is bad: The Washington Post reports that one in particular may even be crucial in conserving some our most vital underwater ecosystems. The plan is to restrict or ban fishing and mineral exploitation in two huge areas of the Pacific.
No surprise, his attempts to do some good are being met with resistance, to the point where the scope of the original plan, which included the preservation of four potential “marine monuments” has already been whittled down. And leading the anti-conservation charge is none other than friend-to-corporations-everywhere Dick Cheney, who argues that the restrictions will hurt the economies of nearby regions like the Northern Mariana Islands.
The ocean areas in question, called “treasure troves” of biodiversity, are described by the Post as follows:
Remember how un-cuddly and un-fuzzy animals were getting the shaft from both the media and the public alike? Well, finally an organization is taking a stand for the rights of the slimy, the toady, and the generally awful. The Conservation Law Foundation has asked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to add the Atlantic wolffish—the picture speaks for itself—to the Endangered Species List.
As with the majority of aquatic species, the fish is being royally screwed by commercial fishing and could soon be wiped off the planet. The only difference between it and all those photogenic dolphins, however, is that the wolffish is, well, freaking hideous. Which makes it all the less likely that the CLF’s push will be well-received—especially considering that New England fishermen are already eying this move as a potential source of more fishing restrictions.
So unless it’s discovered to make pearls or form the world’s greatest sushi, we’re not holding our breaths for the foundations and charities to spring forth trumpeting the species’ survival. Ah well—we’ll always have pictures.