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Old 04-03-2005, 12:09 AM
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Feiger Feiger is offline
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: Deschutes, John Day, Grande Rhonde, Salmon Rivers
Posts: 168
Tragedy of the commons...

In natural resources economics, the plight of natural resources, publically owned such as wild (and hatchery) salmonids, is called the "tragedy of the commons." Everyone, and at the same time no one, owns them, and thus everyone, and no one, is a caretaker for them. What does that mean? When you ask the average "Joe" or "Jane" on the street, do you care about the plight of native/wild salmon, the majority, usually a strong majority, will say yes - they don't want them to go extinct, they want healthy runs for their children's children, etc. But when you ask them what THEY are doing for the health and long term longevity of those same fish - blank stare... "but they're not MY fish, I don't have a personal stake in their existence, that's somebody elses/the government/the fisherman/woman's responsibility..." Or "Saving the salmon and steelhead by removing the Columbia River dams would kill me w/ the increased cost of electricity - I can't have that! There must be another way (hatcheries any one???)".

It's human nature to fail to take action, or interest, until something affects you personally. Whether it be in the pocket book, your living/working conditions, or, as pretty much everyone who is a part of this forum, the ability to enjoy the natural world and all its parts, whether that be the mountain vistas, wild elk and deer, waterfowl, the wild fish in our streams, etc. Every significant human action, whether it be the union movement of labor against management, revolutions of citizens against tyrannic governments, or the long history of sportsman/women conservationists ponying up in $$ and sweat equity to challenge threats to the wild places and wild things we hold near and dear to our hearts - those actions came about because individuals, and groups of like-minded individuals, were adversely affected to the point that they needed to take action. The unfortunate thing about public resources, including our native fish, its seems that it takes the 10th or 11th hour to get enough people concerned to make a difference. That's not to say people weren't concerned earlier. There are many who were blowing the wistle on the travesty of what was happening to our wild salmon and steelhead stocks DECADES ago! But not enough people were personnally affected that resulted in effective action. The common example I come back to is waterfowl - it wasn't until the market gunning, loss of habitat, etc. that finally wiped waterfowl populations so low, that so many avid hunters finally stopped and took notice, that action in the form of federal laws and development of conservation organizations finally came about. I'm not terribly familiar with either species, but it seems to me similar things can be said about striped bass and redfish on the east coast. Certainly the same is being said for the west coast salmonids now. The actions and activities of concerned fisherman and women are louder now than at any time in the past 50 years. Let's hope its not to late... And, incidently, that's why its the hunters and fishermen/women that are the first to step up and take notice, and take action. We recongnize the direct effects first...

I aplaud folks like Deerhawk, who invest many hours of personal time, and many dollars, in "giving back" to a public resource, that at once he does, and doesn't own. I do the same, and have the opportunity to work with dozens of similarly minded folks volunteering to enhance wildlife habitat, at a great personal expense and sacrifice to themselves. All because they CARE....

In response to Pescaphile's comment about the Federal Government "not giving a damn", I have to take some exception to that remark. For two reasons - First, I am the federal government - as a federal employee of a large land management agency, I am the face and action of the Federal Government. And I stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the most active and passionate conservationists on this planet. People that live, breathe and sleep natural resources, including the wild salmon and steelhead all of us cherish. And these individuals do it because they care about the public's resources, and have a strong desire to provide the public with the resources that they desire. And given the current environment of general fed bashing that seems rather prevalant these days, I can speak from first hand experience that your pretty much have to love natural resources to put up with it!! And second - Not only am I the Federal Government, so are you! Every citizen of the United States of America is the Federal Government. YOU elect the congressmen and representatives and presidents. YOU pay your taxes that goes into (or DOESN'T go into) the programs that manage natural resources, dependent upon the elected officials YOU elected. YOU write/don't write your elected officials and tell them what you do and don't want from your natural resources. And through those avenues, YOU direct/don't direct the actions of the Federal Government, and all YOUR employees in the management of your cherished natural resources.

Is that to say the Federal Government's perfect? Hell no! There are many a decision made by the agency of my employment that I can only scratch my head and wonder "what the Hell were they thinking?!?!" But those decisions, those programs, those activities were funded and implemented because someone, in the general public, wanted them. And they spoke up for them. Hydroelectric power? Cheap timber off the Tongass? Oil platforms in the ANWR? Cows on the range? Cyanide strip mine in a bull trout watershed? Commercial access to wild fisheries? Someone in the US wanted access to that resource, and voted accordingly, and contributed $$'s accordingly, to get that response. Yet another part of the "Tragedy of the Commons" - everyone wants everything from every natural resource, and it simply cannot be provided, especially with the ever burgeoning human population...

Pescaphile - take no personal offense to your comment, there's many a time I share a similar view point. But pointing the finger at a nameless and faceless Federal Government won't change anything. I hope you are taking the opportunity to participate as a part of that Federal Government, as that is the only way change will come in that realm...

Finally - and sorry for this overly long-winded response - the comment that got this whole discussion started - Anders' comment in regards to animal abuse and the hypocritical context of a fisherman "calling the kettle black". To me, Anders' response to Deerhawk's rant is comparing apples to oranges. And it comes down to the resource at hand - wild versus farm raised. In my mind, and I think this is where Deerhawk was coming from, there is a VERY distinct difference between the packaged "salmon"/elk steak/pheasant/venison that I may buy wrapped in celophane at a super market or order at a restaurant; and the WILD salmon/elk/pheasant/venison that I took part in the killing, processing, and consuming (or in the case of C&R, caught and released). Its the difference between an animal's/fish's life spent in a cage/fenced enclosure/warehouse, being fed processed food/hormones/antibiotics, killed by an unknown individual, removed of blood and guts and gore, placed in plastic wrap or on a plate, and served to me with out any appreciation for where it came from or how it lived; and an animal/fish that lived its existence in the wild, free of enclosures and control, eating "natural" things (until it hits my traditional spey fly.... ), and me taking direct responsibility for its death, demise, and my consumption (or in C&R - release). Its about quality of life. Life is violent - Death happens, regularly. I, for one, choose to be an active participant in that process, and prefer to take part in an animals life and death, that had the opportunity to live as it's species has evolved to live - not in a cage or pen...

Some one PLEASE knock the soap box from underneath my feet before I rant again!!!!
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Last edited by Feiger; 04-03-2005 at 12:22 AM.
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