The Pandemic and Trophy Hunting

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Fear that the coronavirus pandemic came from wild animals has evoked calls for greater limits on trade in wildlife. But Catherine Semcer of PERC (the Property and Environment Research Center), in a thorough discussion of the issue, says that the coronavirus did not come from legal trade in wildlife and warns against further restricting trophy hunting through bans on imports.

Writes Semcer on the PERC site:

“The lack of evidence connecting the pandemic to the legal trade in wildlife is critical for decision makers around the world to consider as they plot a path forward and seek to reduce the risks of future pandemics. The sustainable use of wildlife for commercial and other purposes has proven itself to be a highly effective tool for conserving wildlands and reducing poverty, both of which have important roles in preventing the spread of infectious disease.

“Blanket trade bans, like some have proposed, also risk making the jobs of public health officials significantly more difficult, leading to delayed investigations, sluggish responses, and lost lives when the next pandemic occurs. Rather than enact blanket bans on trade, effective policies will be more targeted, seeking to leverage the ability of trade to produce outcomes that reduce the risk of future disease outbreaks and expand the use of market- and rights-based conservation tools to limit the emergence of new pathogens.

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“Conservation programs that create viable economic alternatives and increase the opportunity costs of such development have the potential to act as a prophylactic guarding against any viral spillover into human populations. Continue reading “The Pandemic and Trophy Hunting”

Will the Anti-Hunters Pay for Their Pleasure?

By Wallace Kaufman

This is Part III of a three-part article. Part I is here; Part II is here.

The anti-hunters, of course, have yet to put significant money in play. More wildlife and wildlife habitat have been preserved and restored by hunters than by anti-hunting environmentalists. (Environmentalists tend to focus on nearly extinct species and on unusual specimens—elephants, rhinos, hippos, grizzlies, the albinos, and the big predators at the top of the food chain.)

Environmentalists concentrate on persuading governments to spend money to preserve and expand habitat and control poaching. Non-profit conservancies and land trusts, however, have made important acquisitions and are expanding their efforts. One of the oldest conservancies, the Nature Conservancy, has by itself preserved over 100 million acres and has over 1 million contributing members.

The alternatives to hunting are multiplying rapidly along with their enthusiasts and the funds they provide. I have hunted with a gun, but digital photography has radically reduced the cost of shooting with a camera. I go hunting every day without a license. I shoot with my camera. That requires as much, or more knowledge and skill than bow or gun hunting. The birds, deer, bear, elk, and other wildlife don’t know I’ve shot them, and I can shoot the same ones as many times as I like. Other photographers can continue to shoot them and amateur naturalists to watch them. Continue reading “Will the Anti-Hunters Pay for Their Pleasure?”

Hunters’ Last-Ditch Defenses

By Wallace Kaufman

This is the second part of a three-part article. For Part I see Hunters and Their Money Are Fading. For Part III, see Will the Anti-Hunters Pay for Their Pleasure?

How much hunters cherish killing is demonstrated by their own boasts of how much they spend on the pleasure. Pleasure is the operative word since I’ve heard no claims of charitable expenses in the pursuit of duty. The fact that trophy hunters and many others can’t convincingly explain why they spend so much and take so much pleasure in killing innocent animals does not suggest that they are bad or cruel or inhumane, only that the behavior has roots in the evolution of predators and humans in particular. Those who rationalize killing wildlife as an economic and humane means of preservation have begun to hide that deeper truth of human nature in socially acceptable language.

Peter Flack, a South African hunter and well-reasoned defender of trophy and sport hunting, nevertheless feels obliged to cover up. “The fastest growing segment of hunters in North America, which has some 13.4 million hunters growing at 3.4 percent per annum, are young women and urban men in their late twenties and early thirties like Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO, who want to take responsibility for the protein their families eat.”[1] It’s not the protein they are after but a fictional avatar.

Continue reading “Hunters’ Last-Ditch Defenses”

Hunters and Their Money Are Fading

By Wallace Kaufman

This is Part I of a three-part article. For Part II, see Hunters’ Last-Ditch Defenses. For Part III, see Will the Anti-Hunters Pay for Their Pleasure?

Many or most readers will soon strongly, even angrily, disagree with the conclusions of this essay, so let’s begin where we almost certainly agree. Hunters and their organizations have been heroes of wildlife habitat preservation and creation and of wildlife populations saved and restored. With some obvious exceptions, hunters have every right to think of themselves as environmentalists, but not “those environmentalists.”

Hunters plant thousands of acres in wildlife crops. Hunters paying their license fees have supported habitat protection with hundreds of millions of dollars. Long before the environmental movement began, hunters in Ducks Unlimited were doing work that saved more than six million acres of wetlands. Taxes on guns and ammo, along with license fees, now pay 60 percent of the budgets of state wildlife agencies. In Idaho alone, hunting permits contribute almost a half billion dollars to environmental programs. That is not the future. The social, environmental and economic services of hunting are already being replaced.

Three strong trends diminish the importance of hunting as a significant or desirable environmental strategy. Those trends are:

Continue reading “Hunters and Their Money Are Fading”

Protecting Our Natural Surroundings

“I divide environmental topics into two sometimes overlapping groups, ‘romance’ and ‘sludge.’ The romance sector includes parks, forests, wildlands, wilderness, wildlife, and scenic vistas.”

By John Baden

I divide environmental topics into two sometimes overlapping groups, “romance” and “sludge.” The romance sector includes parks, forests, wildlands, wilderness, wildlife, and scenic vistas. These treasures grace calendars and coffee table books. Most educated and comfortable adults, even committed urbanites, are attracted to and want to protect this sector.

The second division is sludge. This term refers to nasty stuff that is often the necessary byproduct of legitimate productive activities such as food processing, mining, and manufacturing. These are spillovers from legitimate and useful activities.Economists call this category negative externalities. They ask: How might we efficiently reduce them—or even better, convert them into useful products?

That’s exactly what environmental entrepreneurs did when they converted the wood waste and scrap from lumber mills into valuable wood panels. Those panels replaced plywood—which had replaced boards formerly cut from old growth trees. Lesson here? In a market process economy, superior substitutes naturally evolve.

We can’t live without some sludge; it’s inherent in living and using products from the earth. While recognizing this, I choose to work in the romance arena. Had I elected to focus on sludge, I’d live in Boston and study its harbor. Instead, I live on a ranch between Bozeman and Yellowstone Park and study my surrounding habitat. Thus, I work in the tradition of America’s first conservationists.

America’s old-line conservation organizations were primarily concerned with the romance sector of their environment, largely with protecting wildlife. A common target was market hunters, people who overexploited the wildlife commons. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) of 1918, one of the oldest wildlife protection laws, was among the National Audubon Society’s first major victories.

The 1857 book Wild Northern Scenes; Sporting Adventures with the Rifle and the Rod is an example of the connection between outdoor recreation and preservation of environmental romance. In this book, S.H. Hammond writes: “We are here alone with nature, surrounded by old primeval things. Tall forest trees, mountain and valley are on the right hand and on the left. Before us, stretching away for miles, is a beautiful lake, its waters calm and placid, giving back the bright heavens, the old woods, the fleecy clouds that drift across the sky, from away down in its quiet depths.”

My columns and posts build on a lifelong interest in conservation. It began by creating the Concord Conservation Club while in the fifth grade of the small, high-quality and quite rural Concord School  in Miami County, Ohio.

Our club focused on wildlife, both fish and game. For example, I recall Field and Stream articles on the importance of fence rows in providing habitat. In those years family farms fields were small by today’s standards; forty acres was a large one. Most farms were fenced to keep farm animals, mainly beef and dairy cows and flocks of sheep, in for grazing. Various types of grasses and small bushes grew on both sides of each fence. I learned that fence rows provided good habitat for small animals nesting, hiding from predators, and gaining protection from weather. I maintained  my interest through high school and college and expressed it through hunting and fishing.

My columns with the Goodman Institute will be written while enjoying life in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. My goal is to explain how responsible liberty, sustainable ecology, and modest prosperity can complement one another while fostering wholesome communities. Communities flourish within this trinity. Eliminate any one and life becomes problematic, unpleasant over the long term—even unsafe.

Of the three elements of this trinity, modest prosperity is often underrated. Especially by Greens with a “woke” philosophy. Socialists and other authoritarians fail to understand the linkages among liberty, prosperity, and sustainable ecological systems.

They see economics as a subset of engineering rather than of evolutionary biology. Hence, they believe that prosperity can be designed and administered by the governmental bureaucracies via regulations and directives. This command approach never has and never will succeed. Why?

Bureaucratic knowledge is incomplete, and errors are common. Further, incentives often yield perverse outcomes. For example, federal programs to subsidize draining prairie potholes, America’s “duck factories,” destroy habitat for migratory water fowl and terrestrial wildlife dependent on pools of water. Reclamation irrigation dams destroy salmon runs. Here as elsewhere, political forces trump ecology and economics.

Prosperity, as contrasted to windfall gains from winning a lottery or finding gold, evolves as individuals discover ways to move resources to higher value. I will be discussing that in the future with the example I know best, our ranch.

John A. Baden is founder and chairman of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE), located in Bozeman, Montana.

Are Global Skeptics Dying Off?

Lindzen spoke at Heartland Institute’s International Climate Change  Conference in July. “They all . . . could recognize that what was called climate science bore little relation to actual science.”

By Jane Shaw Stroup

For the past 30 years, ever since global warming became a public issue, Richard Lindzen, emeritus professor of meteorology at MIT, has questioned the apocalyptic view of climate change. As the topic rose to public attention in the late 1980s, Lindzen was so prominent that his views could not be ignored. Richard Kerr wrote in Science magazine in 1989 that “no other U.S. skeptic has such scientific stature.”

But over time, Lindzen became a target of hostility from advocates of global warming extremism. More disturbing perhaps were sometimes subtle attacks by his colleagues, including editors of peer-reviewed journals. For example, as he recounted in 2008,[1] the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society published a paper, written with colleagues, that found a strong cooling effect from clouds. But the Bulletin then published a paper disputing this cooling effect without giving Lindzen and his coauthors the opportunity to respond in the same issue (the normal practice). And American Scientist, the journal of the scientific honor society Sigma Xi, refused to publish an article by Lindzen unless he found as a coauthor someone who differed with him on global warming!

On July 25, Lindzen spoke at the International Conference on Climate Change sponsored by Heartland Institute in Washington, D.C. His talk aimed at showing that a significant number of well-known scientists were skeptical about extreme harms from global warming during the past 30 years. His goal was to bring them out of the shadows. Most of the 21 scientists on his list are dead.

On his list were people like William Nierenberg, a physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project and became director of the Scripps Oceanographic Institute, the premier such institute in this country, and Robert Jastrow, professor of geophysics at Columbia University, founding director of the Goddard Institute and the first chairman of NASA’s Lunar Exploration Committee.

There were also Reid Bryson, founder of the Center for Climatic Research at the University of Wisconsin; Joanne Simpson, president of the American Meteorological  Society and NASA’s lead weather researcher; Robert White, NOAA’s first administrator; Fred Singer (still alive and writing at age 94), who established the National Weather Service’s Satellite Service Center and is viewed as the first predictor of the earth’s radiation belts; Ivar Giaevar, who received a Nobel prize for his work in superconducting; and 14 others.

These were leading figures in science, said Lindzen. “They all . . . could recognize that what was called climate science bore little relation to actual science and that there was nothing to suggest the alarm being raised,“ said Lindzen. “Nobody was suggesting that there was no greenhouse effect or that climate doesn’t change. . . . They were simply noting the obvious—that there was nothing unusual in what we were seeing in climate, including extreme events.”

“I’m still puzzling over how it happened that there are so many people who questioned this [hysteria] yet it made no impact on the field,” said Lindzen. One reason was that “they were very often quite private in their questioning.” For example, Joanne Simpson did not speak out until she had retired from NASA. But, he mused, “somehow the rest of us didn’t make a effort at contacting these people. There was very little coordination.”

Lindzen gave credit to Heartland for bringing many skeptics together but seemed to be saying that members of the scientific community did not do what they might have done. The campaign for climate alarm was “highly organized, planned, thought out, funded, and the opposition was completely fragmented.”

[1] Richard S. Lindzen, “Climate Science: Is It Currently Designed to Answer Questions?” Paper given before Euresis (Associazone per la promozione e la diffusione della cultura e del lavoro scientifico) and the Templeton Foundation, Creativity and Creative Inspiration in Mathematics, Science, and Engineering: Developing a Vision for the Future, San Marino, August 29-31, 2008. Updated September 21, 2012.

What Went Wrong with the Obama-Era “Waters” Rule?

The EPA used outdated and controversial methods to justify its expansion of federal regulation of streams, rivers, and lakes, writes R. David Simpson in a new PERC policy paper.

 

By Jane Shaw Stroup

In a new PERC policy paper, R. David Simpson reports on his experience reviewing the cost-benefit analysis of an Obama-era regulation defining “WOTUS.” (In Washington lingo, that is “waters of the United States.”)

Simpson, an economist formerly with the Environmental Protection Agency, expresses regret that he did not press harder to improve the EPA’s cost-benefit analysis of the rule, issued in 2015. The rule was designed to extend the federal government’s jurisdiction over U.S. waters under the Clean Water Act, bringing relatively isolated streams and wetlands under government regulation.

The rule went into effect, but was stayed by a federal court, then reinstated in 26 states. The Trump administration opposes it, although its future is uncertain.

What went wrong? First, the analysis “relied on dated estimates employing controversial methods that are not accepted by all economists,” says Simpson. Second, “it transferred figures from the contexts for which they were originally derived to waters that would have become jurisdictional under the 2015 rule using poorly explained and apparently ad hoc procedures.”

It also raised constitutional questions: “There seems to be a sort of paradox in supposing that waters characterized by their isolation and tenuous connections to other bodies should be subject to federal regulation.” The Constitution authorizes the federal government to regulate only interstate or international activities, he adds.

The analysis was also based on benefits determined by “willing to pay” surveys. Asks Simpson: “Why should landowners be compelled to undertake costly action for which others say they would be willing to pay, but for which the purported beneficiaries are not actually required to pay?”

Simpson suggests that economic research “could be more effective in motivating voluntary agreements to protect waters than in trying to justify compulsory restrictions imposed without compensation.”

In sum, there’s a better route to liberty, ecology, and prosperity.

For a history of the “WOTUS” debates, and a recommendation for the Trump administration, see Jonathan Adler in Cato’s Regulation magazine:

The Trump administration’s effort to narrow and focus federal regulatory efforts under the CWA is among the most significant, and potentially the most beneficial, of the administration’s efforts to reform environmental regulation.