by Alex Slippen
Our nation has long been thought of as a “melting pot” of different human races living side by side. But humans and wildlife need to live side by side too. They need to coexist.
And although this necessary coexistence can lead to conflict, there are good faith actors out there trying to make it work. And Defenders is helping to lead the way.
Over the years, Defenders has worked with numerous collaborators and experts to prevent and mitigate conflicts between humans and wildlife, particularly with predator species such as wolves, grizzly bears and panthers. Recently, Defenders hosted a policy forum in Washington, D.C. on the topic of coexistence to bring many of these partners together.
Opening remarks were delivered by Defenders president Jamie Rappaport Clark, who stressed that peaceful coexistence should be the new norm when it comes to living with predators, not the exception. And she praised the forum panelists for their pioneering work in making that happen.
Following a brief video produced by Defenders on helping people coexist with wildlife, a diverse panel of four experts from various fields and locations took turns discussing their coexistence work.
First up was Lawrence Schoen, a board member of the Blaine County Commission in south central Idaho. Schoen spoke about his involvement in Defenders’ Wood River Wolf Project, which uses a combination of deterrents and good old-fashioned foresight to keep nearby sheep separated from wolves in the area.
He was followed by Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, who spoke of his experiences with coexistence projects in Florida as “proactive, adaptive solutions” to human-panther conflicts.
Next up was Nancy Gloman, vice president of field conservation for Defenders of Wildlife, who reiterated the organization’s long-term vision of human populations as tolerant, appreciative and accepting of the wildlife around them.
And closing out the panel was David White, chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (a section of the U.S. Department of Agriculture), who tied all the panelists remarks together by discussing coexistence efforts at the federal level. Some of NRCS’ landscape conservation initiatives include the protection of the sage grouse in key agriculture areas.
Defenders is committed to a collaborative approach to living with wildlife, and the variety of different perspectives that comes from experts like these panelists will go a long way towards bridging the gap between humans and wildlife.