New textbook edited by School of Natural Resources team spotlights social aspects of fish, wildlife harvest management

“Harvest of Fish and Wildlife: New Paradigms for Sustainable Management” will be released June 7, and is available for pre-order now. CRC Press
“Harvest of Fish and Wildlife: New Paradigms for Sustainable Management” will be released June 7, and is available for pre-order now. CRC Press

When you receive a state fishing or hunting license, you will be informed of harvest limits connected with the activity. You can bag up to five rainbow trout in a day. You can keep a walleye if it’s 15 inches long. You can only bag two white-fronted geese per day during their season, but can keep up to 50 light geese per day during theirs.

Making harvest management decisions like these is a challenging, ever-evolving process that is done with sustainability, population dynamics and people in mind, said Larkin Powell, professor of conservation biology and animal ecology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources. The body of research centered on the social aspect has grown in recent years, he said, and it is reflected in a new textbook co-edited by Powell and Kevin Pope, biologist with U.S. Geological Survey and director of the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

“Harvest of Fish and Wildlife: New Paradigms for Sustainable Management” will be released June 7, and is available for pre-order now. The textbook features chapters authored by 24 teams of scientists and game managers with expertise about the subject, and an interest in exploring harvest management issues from angles that Pope and Powell said have not been represented in previous textbooks.

“Historically, we considered harvest management in biological or ecological contexts,” Pope said. “That's how we were trained, but now we're encouraging people to think about harvest management as occurring in a social-ecological system. Ecology is important, but so is the social aspect, the politics and actual actions and behaviors of hunters and anglers.”

The authors include many who represent UNL’s School of Natural Resources, and Nebraska as a whole. Chapter authors include five UNL faculty members, one UNL adjunct faculty member, two UNL grad students, two UNL staff members and two Nebraska Game and Parks Commission biologists. The book also includes scientists and experts who are colleagues of Pope’s and hail from four U.S. Geological Survey Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units from across the country.

“This book is a welcome addition to the literature on harvest management, integrating both terrestrial and aquatic perspectives and engaging the social as well as biological sciences,” said Jonathan R. Mawdsley, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program. “The chapter authors are a veritable ‘Who's Who’ of thought leaders in fisheries, wildlife management and decision science, and the book will undoubtedly be of broad interest to state, federal, academic, NGO and private-sector professionals.”

Numerous chapters directly address human elements of the harvest management decision process. Subjects include an exploration of engaging hunters in selecting duck season dates, the social and political context of harvest management and how marketing and ecological models can help predict permit-purchasing behavior of sportspersons.

“Management decisions can be pretty tricky,” Powell said. “It involves population dynamics, but also a lot of stakeholder engagement. And I think that's what emerged in the book. The book tries to bring all those things together, and give guidance to people that are managing these populations. The tricky thing was trying to find the threads that go between all those things. And, for us, that was one of the fun things. It was a challenge, but it was rewarding to help the authors incorporate that into their chapters."

Timothy McCoy, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission deputy director, said that the textbook provides "great insight" into the complex information that agencies consider when making harvest management recommendations and decisions.

"We must continue to adapt, challenge, apply and improve our wildlife science, social science and decision science in harvest management approaches for wildlife and people," McCoy said.

In the preface to the textbook, Pope and Powell wrote that they developed the idea for it with the idea of providing new insights into a traditional area of emphasis for fisheries and wildlife managers.

“We are now in a new era of harvest management,” they wrote in the preface. “Population biologists have new modeling tools that can be applied to harvest questions. Evolutionary biologists have measured effects of harvest that go beyond simple changes in population size, and we can evaluate the potential for selective mortality through harvest to affect populations and species. Social scientists have begun to look reflectively at behaviors of anglers and hunters, especially as anglers and hunters respond to changing densities of fish and game. And, tenets of decision science have proven useful as improved frameworks to select regulations for harvested species in social and political climates that are often hostile toward consumptive uses of fish and wildlife. In sum, harvest management has broadened beyond its traditional roots to embrace information provided by genetics and advanced population-dynamics modeling as well as insights obtained through consideration of human dimensions.”

The textbook explores how harvest management can help ensure a sustainable future, while promoting intentional, thoughtful and transparent justification for fishing and hunting regulations. Pope said that the textbook has appeal not only in fisheries and wildlife classrooms but also for population biologists, evolutionary biologists, social scientists and on-the-ground fish and wildlife managers. It is a valuable resource now, and will be for years to come, said John Carroll, director of the School of Natural Resources.

“Harvest can be one of the most controversial aspects of both fisheries and wildlife management,” Carroll said. “Dr. Pope and Dr. Powell using their respective expertise in population biology led a thorough review of this topic in this textbook. They also embrace a much broader view that includes focus on some traditional harvest topics relative to population biology, but also evolutionary implications and socio-ecological ramifications of wildlife use. There is no doubt that their book is critical now, but will only increase in importance over time as humans continue to dramatically impact fish and wildlife populations on a global scale. These faculty at the University of Nebraska are demonstrating how our natural resources programs not only have a local impact, but also significance at national and international levels.”

“Harvest of Fish and Wildlife: New paradigms for Sustainable Management” is published by CRC Press, an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group. To purchase a copy or request a copy for inspection, visit this site.

- Cory Matteson, SNR Communications

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