North American Model of Wildlife Conservation

CREW Education Series

by Jayne Johnston, CREW Trust Education Coordinator

photo by Bill Zaino

In this series, we will cover a variety of topics related to the wildlife of the CREW Project. While the main focus and priority is always water for people, it is also a special place where our wildlife benefit from the water and space provided, too. First in this series –  how wildlife is conserved in the United States.

During the settlement of the United States, wildlife harvest was unregulated. As the country grew in size and population, overharvesting coupled with habitat loss to development and agriculture made a significant impact on wildlife populations. The decline became evident enough by the late 1800s that the 1900s ushered in a new wildlife ethic. Federal laws were passed – Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act of 1934, Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, and Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950. These pillars of wildlife legislation were made possible by engaged citizens, just like CREW came to be through similar efforts. These laws formed the foundation of what biologists and policymakers follow as a guide to wildlife management – the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Here are its seven principles:

  1. Wildlife is a public resource. Wildlife is treated separately from other resources like water and land.
  2. Markets for game were eliminated. Commercial wildlife harvest decimated wildlife populations. Southwest Florida was known as the heart of the plume (feather) trade for women’s hats. Legislation and the Audubon Society put an end to the devastation of bird rookeries (bird nurseries) that could be found at the CREW Bird Rookery Swamp.
  3. Allocation of wildlife by law. Think of hunting regulation with its seasons, bag limit, and types of species allowed. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) oversees these efforts at the CREW Project through onsite law enforcement and biologists. 
  4. Wildlife can only be killed for a legitimate purpose. Purposeful hunting prevents waste and needless death. 
  5. Wildlife species are considered an international resource. We are fortunate at CREW to see so many migratory birds from Canada and South America. Swallow-tailed kites arrive from South America to nest here and warblers from Canada visit CREW after their summer nesting season. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act and CITES guide how these resources are shared among the U.S., Canada, and beyond.
  6. Science is the proper tool for discharge of wildlife policy. Sound science – population counts, species research, biological inquiry –  helps governments design wildlife hunting regulations (lowest protections afforded wildlife like for deer and turkey) up to federal protections as endangered wildlife (strongest protections afforded wildlife like for Florida panthers and Eastern indigo snakes) The democracy of hunting. Access to wildlife is for all!

While we lost the Caribbean monk seal, Carolina parakeet, (yes, Florida used to have its own native seal and parakeet) and Passenger pigeon, we recovered the American alligator, White-tailed deer, and Wild turkey. We are attempting to recover the Florida panther, Crested caracara, and Gopher tortoise. The model works! You can find alligators, deer, turkey, panthers, caracara, tortoises and others at CREW. You can also help wildlife through purchases of hunting and fishing licenses (referred to as consumptive use – people consume their harvest), the abundance of specialty license plates that support wildlife recovery efforts, or by supporting our partners if not a hunter (referred to as non-consumptive use like wildlife viewing and hiking) – the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and by supporting the CREW Trust through memberships, donations, and volunteer service.

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