Monday, March 07, 2005

The difference between protecting species and habitat

The Globe and Mail: B.C. logging threatens endangered species, watchdog says:
Bruce Fraser, chairman of the Forest Practices Board, said an investigation into a complaint about logging in the Brand Valley, on Vancouver Island, led to the conclusion that prime marbled murrelet habitat is not being protected.

He said that government policy calls for up to 1 per cent of old-growth forest to be withheld from the cutting supply to protect marbled murrelet nesting sites. But that figure was set arbitrarily and in some areas may not be adequate, he added.

He said the province should come up with a better system, and it needs to establish clear targets.

“If we were logically trying to follow through on a system to protect a species, the first thing we should do is to set a population target, like how many murrelets do we want to conserve over time?”

He said that once officials have reached the 1-per-cent cap, they stop looking at marbled murrelets in a given region and have no idea whether the population is surviving with the habitat set aside.
Habitat protection alone isn't a panacea. Many species have special needs, and successful conservation requires thoughtful analysis of their individual needs. But adequate habitat is an important first step. It's possible that 1% of the habitat will be adequate, but it has to be the right habitat. Until you know which habitat to protect, you need to cast a wider net, and protect the habitat in general.