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US and Canada are known as one of the areas which lead the wildlife conservation action in the world. In Canada, there is Canadian Wildlife Service (CWA). There are also some NGOs such as Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, Canadian Wildlife Federation, Nature Canada and WWF Canada are known as the national level and playing a significant role with government conservation agencies. In US, there are also many governmental laws and associations. They both lead the international wildlife conservation. How wildlife conservation changed over time from European settlement until now in US and Canada is on important historical questions of the investigation. Understanding of their history of wildlife conservation will provide good examples for the other countries or areas where currently working to develop their system and for the future.
US and Canada went through similar situations and solved in similar ways. The government first tried to protect wildlife and nongovernment organizations were founded to support protecting them. Finally, they started leading worldwide wildlife conservation by founding international organizations such as WWF. Before the wildlife conservation started in US, Native Americans lived with wild animals. Most of Native Americans such as Sioux, Arapaho, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Cree, Kiowa, Mandan, Pawnee and Shawnee were hunting mostly small mammals with small amount of large animals. They also gathered nuts, berries and fruits, but the majority was planted crops. It is believed that there were about 3 -5 million Native Americans in the area where now the United States at that time. After European arrivals in US, there were many issues such as furbearers, and market hunting. The exploitation of the furbearers in the northeast and Canada was mainly by the French England’s Hudson’s Bay Company. In the Pacific Northwest, the Russian-American Fur Company took seals and sea otters, and by 1768 Steller’s sea cow went extinct. In 1748 alone, South Carolina shipped about 160,000 deer pelts to England. When wildlife populations declined, the settlers at first blamed it on its predators. Also in 1833, the American Fur Company shipped about 43,000 buffalo hides and they were mostly traded for from the Native Americans. Buffalo meat was also used for camp towns and crews building railroads to the west. Because of that, there was a significant decline in buffalo numbers by the mid 1840’s. The situation for wildlife changed in Canada too after European settlement. Wapiti, great auk and bison were the main species that got impact badly from Europeans. Wapiti is the second largest deer. Before 1492, wapiti are relatively rare in the fossil record, but rapidly grew after as the result of depreciation of North America’s human populations due to Eurasian diseases and genocide. They reached their maximum geographic range before 1800. By 1835, however, wapiti had disappeared from their eastern range (Ontario and Québec) because of hunting. They went extinct in Alberta before 1913, but they were reintroduced from Yellowstone National Park in 1917. The another species, great auk is the largest and only flightless auk which is extinct. The great auk was destroyed by humans. As they are Flightless, and colonial when breeding, they were heavily hunted by early explorers for food, and for bait by fishermen, and in the late 1700s, by commercial hunters for feathers. The last known breeding pair was collected at Eldey Rock off southwestern Iceland in 1844. Lastly, the depopulation of bison was the direct result of the European invasion of North America. The population decline in Canada began with the need for meat to the fur traders of the Hudson’s Bay Company and North West Company.
The North America slaughter was also the reason by several significant developments. First, the development of a new hide-tanning process in Britain and Germany during the second industrial revolution (1870–1914) resulted in an insatiable need for cow hides for leather. The ability for hunters to kill large numbers of bison was facilitated by the development of new rifles. In addition, bison was a primary source of food for indigenous people, as a means of forcing them off their ancestral lands and onto reserves. Before their depopulation, bisons were the most abundant large mammal on the continent, there were about 30 million plains bison. By the time the slaughter was finished in the mid-1880s, there were not enough wild plains bison left in North America to go for one city block. Nearly all of the plains bison alive today are descendants of the last 116 wild bison. Plains bison were extirpated from Canada by 1888. The first step of wildlife conservation in US occurred in Portsmouth, Rhode Island where enacted the first closed season on deer hunting in 1646 when the deer did not rebound. Sportsman clubs were also formed to promote comradeship and ethical hunting practices. The first sportsman’s club in the US was the Carroll’s Island Club in 1832, for waterfowl hunting. Eventually, hundreds of local sportsmen’s clubs were formed across the country to protect wildlife, and similar game laws were passed as well. In addition, some states outlawed the use of dogs for hunting and hunting at night with lights, and others banned the use of traps, snares and pitfalls, which were common at that time. During the 1870’s and later, many additional hunting and conservation organizations were formed, such as the League of American Sportsmen, the American Ornithologists Union, the Camp Fire Club, the New York Zoological Society, the Audubon Society, and the American Bison Society. These groups campaigned for stricter laws to stop market hunting for meat and the millinery trade, and to ban unethical sport hunting.
The Constitution Act in 1867 was the beginning of wildlife conservation in Canada. This is a move made to develop wildlife conservation and protection areas. It provided for the union of three colonies, the Province of Canada (Ontario and Québec), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into a federal state with a parliamentary system modelled on that of Britain. This Act shows the distribution of powers between the central Parliament and the provincial legislatures. Wildlife conservation became towards success around 1900 both in US and Canada. In US history, President Theodore Roosevelt was one of the most active President for wildlife conservation. Roosevelt formed the Agriculture Department’s Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy, which became the Bureau of Biological Survey, and worked on surveying its biota. It was also given powers with the passage of the Lacey Act. In 1900, Congress passed the Lacy Game and Wild Birds Preservation and Disposition Act which is the first national legislation for wildlife conservation. This law banned to transport wild game across state borders if they were taken illegally. It also controlled the importation of exotic species. President Franklin Roosevelt also worked for wildlife conservation. During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps was formed to solve unemployment. It employed thousands of factory workers and farmers, and they helped to develop thousands of acres of waterfowl breeding grounds. In 1934, he established the Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit Program, the American Wildlife Institute, the North American Wildlife Federation, the North American Wildlife Institute. In addition, Endangered Species Act (ESA) was made to provide a framework to conserve and protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats in 1973.
In Canada, wildlife conservation became more popular in1900s as well. The first bird sanctuary was created in 1887 at Last Mountain Lake (Sask) and 98 migratory bird sanctuaries are now administered. Migratory Birds Convention in 1916 and Canada Migratory Birds Convention Act in 1917 were made to implement the Convention by protecting and conserving migratory birds. The Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) is a directorate of Environment Canada. The CWS focuses on 3 key things which are migratory birds, species at risk and habitat. The CWS is responsible for Canada Wildlife Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act. There are also several non governmental associations. Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) was made in 1961 to spread an understanding of wildlife in Canada and ensure that all species would be preserved for the future. CWF now represents over 500 000 members and supporters across Canada and has a wildlife affiliate in all provinces and territories. In addition, Nature Canada was established to protect and conserve wildlife and its habitats in Canada. It is focused to influence people on significance issues, including bird conservation, wilderness protection, and endangered species.
Finally, from around 1970, international wildlife protection began. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was made in 1973 to control the trade of wild animals and plants that are threatened with extinction because of international trade. The Convention on Biological Diversity was created in 1992 for the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of biological diversity and fair and equal share of the benefits from utilization of genetic resources. Another famous worldwide known association is World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF). It is the world’s largest independent conservation organization. Since 1967, WWF Canada has been working with business, government and the public to stop the degradation of natural environment, and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.
In conclusion, wildlife conservation in US and Canada is closely related to its history and they went through similar situation. Beginning with European settlement and industrialization. Europeans first thought that natural resources were unlimited and they used these sources not only for food source, but also for military purpose as well. After wildlife depopulated severely, several people started thinking about wildlife conservation. They started from small associations and developed them to even for international associations over time. Timeline is slightly different between US and Canada, US usually starts little bit earlier and Canada follows. Some acts and associations are closely related to huge historical events which we learned in the class. For example, Civilian Conservation Corps was created to solve unemployment during the Great Depression and it actually took a role for wildlife conservation by developing waterfowls breeding grounds. Additionally, extremely famous people in history such as President Theodore Roosevelt and President Franklin Roosevelt actually took huge role in the history of wildlife conservation as well. Both Canada and US are considered that they succeeded in wildlife conservation with non governmental associations and government acts and effort to preserve our environment are continuing to next generation.
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