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A Brief History of Wildlife and Fisheries Management . Early(< 1500’s) Pre-European Settlement of North America 1700’s on……. (This lecture will have a decidedly North American bias and emphasis). Early Laws and Regulations Concerning Wildlife and Fisheries Resources .

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A Brief History of Wildlife and Fisheries Management

  • Early(< 1500’s)
  • Pre-European Settlement of North America
  • 1700’s on…….

(This lecture will have a decidedly North American bias and emphasis)


Early Laws and Regulations Concerning Wildlife and Fisheries Resources

Bible: ? Mention of wildlife management /harvesting issues in Deuteronomy (14:4-20), Leviticus (11:4-6). Decrees on harvesting of wildlife

Egypt ?? Hieroglyphics showing trapping of rats

Solon 600 B.C. Hunting Restrictions

Kublai Khan 1260 A.D. Specific Hunting Restrictions

Magna Carta 1215 A.D. Ownership of game animals (and land) assigned to King and nobles. Hunting is made and exclusive right of the noble class (note distinction with the modern North American system)


Wildlife and Fisheries Resource Use in Presettlement North America

  • ≈ 10,000 B.C.: Native Americans widespread in N. America. Early on, primarily a hunter-gatherer society
  • ≈ 3000-1500 B.C.: first cultivation, but hunting and fishing persisted
  • Landscape-scale management of habitat common ( e.g., use of fire to promote successional habitats).

Impact of Native Americans on Wildlife

Possible overkill as important contributor to mass extinctions


Other possibilities include:

  • Climate Change
  • Introduced Disease
  • Combination of two or more factors?

Development of North American wildlife conservation during the post-(European) settlement period

  • Can be divided into 5 periods:
  • Era of Abundance
  • Era of Overexploitation
  • Era of Protection
  • Era of Game Management
  • Era of Environmental Management

Era of Abundance: 1600-1849

  • Most fish and wildlife species found in high numbers, resource is viewed as limitless
  • Wildlife and fisheries not viewed as restricted “resources”, rather it is viewed by immigrants as a “commons”
  • Some laws were passed; e.g.,
  • bounty on wolves
  • closed season on deer (R.I., 1646)
  • Game bird seasons (N.Y., 1708)

In England and Wales: a common (or common land) is a piece of land over which other people—often neighbouring landowners—could exercise one of a number of traditional rights, such as allowing their cattle to graze upon it. The older texts use the word "common" to denote any such right, but more modern usage is to refer to particular rights of common, and to reserve the word "commons" for the land over which the rights are exercised. By extension, the term "commons" has come to be applied to other resources to which a community has rights or access.


Basically, everyone was operating under the “Myth of Superabundance” which resulted from rich natural resources and relatively few consumers


Era of Overexploitation (1850- 1899)

Wildlife populations declined because:

- habitats were continually modified

- repeating firearms

- efficient transportation

- markets for wildlife

Hunted or trapped to the brink of extinction:

beaver, bison (10 x 106 to nearly none….)

In the Midwest: White tailed Deer, Wild Turkey, Greater Prairie Chicken, Wolf


Era of Overexploitation (1850- 1899)

Some reactive responses:

First Game Wardens: Maine, 1852

Hunting License: New York, 1864

First Bag Limit: Iowa, 25 Prairie Chickens

First National Park: Yellowstone, 1872


Ectopistes migratorius

"The passenger pigeon needs no protection. Wonderfully prolific, having the vast forests of the North as its breeding grounds, traveling hundreds of miles in search of food, it is here today and elsewhere tomorrow, and no ordinary destruction can lessen them, or be missed from the myriads that are yearly produced“

Ohio Senate report finding in response to bill to protect the Passenger Pigeon , 1857


Era of Protection (1900-1925)

Many populations were at historical lows



Pronghorn Antelope

Passenger Pigeon*

Snowy Egret



Era of Protection (1900-1925)

Laws protecting wildlife were established:

Lacey Act: Passed in 1925, regulated market hunting, controlled importation of exotics and interstate transport of illegal game

Weeks-Mclean Act: 1912, provided for protection of waterfowl


Era of Protection (1900-1925)

New laws, continued:

Migratory Bird Treaty Act: 1917, protection of migratory birds either complete or through regulation

All this was driven by recognition that overexploitation was the cause of declines


Era of Protection (1900-1925)

  • Most states established departments of fish and game
  • Revenue from fish and hunting licenses generated and put into enforcement and some level of resource management

Era of Protection (1900-1925)

Theodore Roosevelt: 1858-1919

Along with others , he conceived many of the key aspects and elements of modern conservation and the dangers of overexploitation. A doctrine that included:

  • A recognition of conservation through wise use as a public responsibility
  • Recognition of resource ownership as a public trust
  • Recognition of outdoor resources as integrated systems
  • Recognition of science as a means effective resource management.

Theodore Roosevelt:

  • As President (1901-1909), established several natural resource agencies, and what became the National Wildlife Refuge system
  • Promoted the National Monuments and Antiquities Act and then established 23 National Monuments.
  • Created 150 National Forests
  • Established Federal protection for over 230 x 106 acres

Gifford Pinchot: 1865-1946

"The greatest good for the greatest number of people in the long run." 

Generally credited with coining the term “conservation”

A forester who started the first forestry school (Yale, 1899) and lead what became the U.S. Forest Service

Recognized that resources must be managed


John Muir: 1838-1914

  • Proponent of the preservationist movement
  • Established the Sierra Club in 1892
  • Advocate of wilderness and aesthetic values of the land

Era of Game Management (1930-1965)

  • First research and management programs developed in North America
  • Publication of the book “Game Management” in 1933 by Aldo Leopold
  • The Wildlife Cooperative Research Program was established in 1932 at universities and graduate education centers
  • The Wildlife Society was established in 1937

Era of Game Management (1930-1965)

Significant Legislation:

Duck Stamp Act (1934)

Pittman-Robertson Act (1937)


Aldo Leopold: 1886-1948

  • “Father” of wildlife management; the book Game Management was the first formal integration of ecological principles with management goals.
  • Co-founder of the Wildlife Society; first professor of wildlife/game management

Aldo Leopold; continued

  • Established “American Game Policy” with basic principles on the requirements of wildlife as a sustained resource:
  • Food and cover
  • Inducements for landowners
  • Classification of game by habitat (farm, forest, …wilderness).
  • The need for facts, funding, and public-sportsman cooperation

The Land Ethic

"We abuse the land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."

"The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land


Era of Environmental Management (1965 to present)

Significant growth in environmental regulation:

First Endangered Species Act : 1966

National Environmental Policy Act: 1966

EPA established in 1970

First “Earth Day” and Clean Air Act; 1970

Significant rise in environmental concerns for biodiversity-related issues

Concern over global change has generated increased recognition of environmental issues



Like wildlife, fisheries resources were viewed as a “commons.”

Again, a commons is a resource owned by the populace without restriction on who uses it and how much…

Generally, things developed as they did with wildlife resources

First restriction on fish catches was enacted in 1652 in Mass.

Millions of sockeye salmon expected to swim up British Columbia’s Fraser River this summer have gone missing.

Recent News


Erie Canal

Transportation has an important influence on resource; canals were built, channels were “improved”

Through the 19th century, fisheries were commercial (especially in the Great Lakes) and subsistence. Technological advances improved catches to the point where overexploitation became an issue (mid to late 1800’s),

1870, the American Fish Culturists’ Association was formed (later became the American Fisheries Society


Early 1900’s, concept of population biology and “maximum sustained yield” (MSY) developed.

“System” view of aquatic ecosystems developed. Example: Stephen Forbes, Illinois Natural History Survey

1938; publication of Improvement of Lakes for Fishing. C. Hubbs and R. Eschmeyer