by Jeremy Bruskotter
On 30 September my colleagues and I published an article in the journal Science that argues that the wildlife trust doctrine (a branch of the broader public trust doctrine) may provide a legal means for interested citizens to compel states to conserve wolves (or, for that matter, other controversial, imperiled species). What follows is a brief discussion of some of the major points presented in the paper (Bruskotter, J. T., S. A. Enzler, and A. Treves. 2011. Rescuing Wolves from Politics: Wildlife as a Public Trust Resource. Science 333:1828-1829). We begin with a brief primer on the wildlife trust doctrine.
A Primer on the Wildlife Trust
The wildlife trust doctrine–a branch of the broader public trust doctrine that deals specifically with wildlife–was established in a series of court cases that provide the foundation for state-based conservation of wildlife that some refer to as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation/Management.
This past September my colleagues (S.A. Enzler & A. Treves) and I published an article arguing that the public trust doctrine could provide a legal means to force protection of wolves were state policies found lacking (Bruskotter et al., 30 Sept. 2011, p. 1828). This article prompted two recent replies published by Science last month from L. David Mech and David Johns (17 Feb. 2012, p. 794). Contrary to our assertion, Mech contended that “state governments have not shown ‘hostility toward wolves’”. He defended this statement noting that “teams of highly qualified scientists set wolf recovery criteria” and state management plans pledged to maintain wolf populations at or above 150% of recovery goals. Further, Mech argued that monitoring by the FWS ensured that “the wolf can be relisted anytime if necessary”.