Let me be clear, I believe nature's intrinsic value far exceeds any market value for all the board-feet in the timber and all the precious metal and fossil fuel embedded in the rocks and all the bait and tackle and gun and ammunition sales and all the accommodations and gas purchased by those who recreate in the outdoors. But if I can't get those who do not agree in the intrinsic values of nature to help me conserve nature for its intrinsic value, I am not above nor do I see any conflict in pointing out that their values and mine do meet somewhere on a graph that helps conserve nature.
I get both arguments, I really do. I also see where they both have flaws. I don't like preserving nature for the simple purpose of giving mankind (me included) a bounty for the sole purpose of our use and enjoyment. There was an article today in the Lewiston Tribune on a possible outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease in deer in the Clearwater basin. So, you read the article and granted the source was Idaho Fish and Game, so they are bound by that non-mission statement mission statement from 1938 that is very much solely concerned with take, but the article pondered if a larger population of deer would help ease the effects of this possible outbreak. I'll quote...
"It is often fatal for deer, but those that survive become immune for a number of years. (IDFG Biologist Dave) Koehler said the deer population in the Clearwater region and throughout Idaho is robust following a recent string of mild winters. The high population can be both good and bad. When more deer are present more can die. But the higher numbers also mean the population may be able to withstand an outbreak without severely impacting deer available for hunters."
You know, as if the only thing that truly matters with deer is that they be available to be shot this fall. It's almost like mankind thinks the only honorable death for deer is at the end of a true shot. If you apply that short-sighted reasoning to your conservation efforts you get what we've already gone through in this country. You get the bureaucratic framework to kill off large predators. We've been there, done that. And we know that leads to unhealthy numbers of ungulates to say the least. Imagine if deer weren't something people liked to hunt, first off there probably wouldn't have been an article written about a disease outbreak in a population of a nongame animal. Maybe it would get some media attention if say this nongame animal started dropping dead on our roadways or in our yards.
The conservation ethic that begins and ends with us also leads us to the world we live in where we consciously introduce nonnative species. There is an argument brewing in Oregon and Washington about removing or liberalizing the bag limits on nonnative sportfish like walleye and smallmouth bass. Good for both states in finally realizing that there was some hypocrisy in managing the Columbia River fishery to include nonnative warmwater smallmouth bass and walleye while essentially paying lip service to salmon and steelhead restoration efforts. You really can't be on team Endangered Species when you spend some of your days dumping nonnative fish into the salmon and steelhead highway knowing they are going to grow big and fat on salmon smolts. So good for them for moving toward the light so to speak. To those who say this move is devaluing the resource, well I'd say we devalued the resource when we started playing God by introducing nonnative species and slowing the current and changing the elevations of the river.
The logical conclusion of the save it for us conservation ethic does fail without incredible effort to manage all of the resources and to police our predilection to exhaust a favored resource. And I do believe that incredible effort is unsustainable given politics and the ability of propaganda to whip the majority into irrational fervor.
I believe wilderness, fish and wildlife, flora and fauna, whatever you want to call all those things that make up nature, deserve our protection and respect for their intrinsic value. In other words, I value them whether or not I am using them. They have a value beyond what some price tag someone can place upon them. And by price tag, I mean both monetary and selfish value we may place on a resource or resources because we enjoy using them or need to use them.
The intrinsic value argument can be a tough sell, especially in a market capitalism country where we are taught that everything has a market value and something with a low market value is worthless. But the intrinsic value argument for wilderness, fish and wildlife, flora and fauna, or nature is really the only argument that keeps the necessary web of the natural world intact so that nature can afford the indiscretions of the takers.
I approach salmon conservation from both arguments, but the salmon's intrinsic value far outweighs my love of a good, healthy chunk of wild salmon on my plate. Of course, the salmon's intrinsic value far exceeds the sporting man's love of a good tussle at the end of the fishing line in me.
However, I am not going to turn away the help of those who fail to see beyond their own needs and wants when it comes to efforts to better the conditions for wild salmon and steelhead in the Snake River Basin. Improvement is what is needed. Obviously, I believe the four lower Snake River dams should be breached and removed. That would be the greatest improvement we can make in the lives of the wild salmonids in the Snake River Basin. And I will continue to advocate for that to happen. If one day, I heard that we could have three of those four dams breached and removed, I'd take it. I wouldn't stop calling for the removal of the fourth dam, but I'd take it because it improves the plight of wild salmonids in the Snake River Basin. Plus I know a little something about the SARs when there was only one dam in the lower Snake River and they were high enough to constitute recovery (if we could have those numbers for eight years in a row).
I believe in nature's intrinsic value. In many ways I am a purist, even though I am practical. My conservation efforts do not stop on this continent and I send money for conservation efforts on continents I may never visit. But I also realize that purist viewpoints can get in the way of practical gains.
If the purist viewpoint had again won out we might be waiting another 40 years for a wilderness designation in the Boulder-White Clouds. Yes, Simpson's bill was a watered down version in terms of acreage, but it was congressionally-designated and that goes a long way toward legitimacy in today's political climate that a larger (and not assured) national monument designation would not. I think if you would have demanded it be 40,000-60,000 acres more you might be sitting around another 40 years before it actually happened, and if something has intrinsic value it needs to be protected today, not decades down the road. We can always work to add more in the future and it will still retain its intrinsic value. It doesn't make us watered-down conservationists/environmentalists when we achieve something short of some possibility or trial balloon floated before us a decade or more ago. It simply makes us pragmatic in our approach, knowing we will get it done and nature will be protected because we have no plans of stopping our effort...ever.