To maintain life on the planet, it is essential that governing bodies recognize the importance of natural ecosystems and act responsibly toward the diverse array of organisms to limit human-caused extinction. Both non-domesticated organisms and their natural habitats have combined aesthetic, cultural and scientific value that is broadly recognized by the majority of society. As the presence of humans and the products of human lifestyles impact the land and oceans, we can and should act to contain and reduce these effects. Laws regarding these conservation objectives (such as the Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act, and Clean Water Act) are currently subject to change and dilution due to pressure from select groups that are fundamentally focused on immediate economic goals, rather than on long-term economic and ecological sustainability and social needs. Our position as an international Society concerned for the welfare of the Earth’s life is that a) containment legislation should grow in strength to counteract the unsustainable rates of consumption of limited and non-renewable world resources and b) we must reduce the rates of production and consumption by technologically advanced nations, such as the United States. Underlying this position is the inarguable need to control the world’s human population growth.
In recognition of these conditions, and in a non-partisan fashion, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology has this list of resolutions, directed at the United States:
1) We support the reauthorization and strengthening of the Endangered Species Act, to protect non-human species and their habitat. This is provided that the opportunity to modify the Act is not subverted in order to weaken it. We endorse efforts to enhance (not replace) the ESA with habitat conservation plans that result in an increase in viable habitat and the populations of threatened and endangered species contained within. We do not support such plans when they benefit developers at the expense of habitat needs (as is the case with wetlands development).
2) We support reestablishment of endangered species ( e.g., the gray wolf) into their formerly-occupied habitat, with the full protection of the current version of the ESA , and not as “experimental, non-essential” populations. Given the disruptive effects to terrestrial ecosystems, we oppose the lethal control measures taken by the federal and state governments in the lower 48 against various native predators ( e.g., coyotes, bobcats, black bears, cougars) and in Alaska against wolves and bears through “predator-control” programs and liberal hunting and trapping regulations.
3) We fully support the provisions of the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and recommend enforcement of the treaty, including economic sanctions, due to heavy trade in parts from organisms currently threatened with extinction, such as the tiger. We support the efforts of the U.S. government to halt commercial whaling and recommend increased diplomatic pressure and the application of economic sanctions in the face of violations of international agreements by specific countries, such as Japan (with its misnamed “scientific-whaling” program) and Norway.
4) We strongly recommend the designation of all remaining “wildlands” (areas with few or no roads) in the public domain in the United States as Wilderness , with the added provision that these lands should be unavailable for livestock grazing. These areas have been identified by governmental agencies, but are still available for logging, mining, and grazing.
5) We regard methods of extraction of primary resources and power generation that damage the ecosystems involved and reduce their continued productivity as biological travesties. This includes, but is not limited to, clearcutting old-growth and mature forests for timber and wood pulp, construction of dams, and large-scale trawling for benthic fish and shellfish on the sea bed (an activity which results in extensive bottom destruction). We urge that there be no more logging of mature forests on public lands and an immediate end to the incorrectly termed “salvage logging” program enacted through a Congressional rider (#318). Means of supporting human productivity must simultaneously sustain humans and protect the integrity of the ecosystems impacted, to ensure our survival as a species.
6) We urgently recommend an immediate decrease in the rate of damage to the Earth’s atmosphere due to production of greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting chemicals. These gases are considered by most scientists to be responsible for global warming and increases in ultraviolet radiation exposure in polar and temperate regions, leading to possible disruption of latitudinal thermal regimes and weather patterns by warming and increased risk of UV-induced mutagenesis for exposed organisms (including humans). The U.S. must support existing and future international conventions for reductions in these gases and chemicals and stop avoiding them and providing exceptions to larger corporations.