Protecting Predators `on Nature's Terms'. (Wild Futures)

By Negri, Sharon; Didion, Julie | Earth Island Journal, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Protecting Predators `on Nature's Terms'. (Wild Futures)


Negri, Sharon, Didion, Julie, Earth Island Journal


Late in 1998, a landmark meeting was convened high in the Rockies to further the protection of America's large predators -- the grizzly bear, the mountain lion and the wolf. The Predator/Ecosystem Protection Summit achieved the remarkable goal of uniting some of the top predator biologists and conservation advocates in the country.

The summit was organized by WildFutures, a project of Earth Island Institute that works to bridge the gap between science and conservation, finding collaborative ways to develop and implement effective conservation strategies.

The summit concluded that there was a need to convince the public that, in order to protect these majestic and misunderstood animals, we need to protect large and interconnected wildlands. As Mike Phillips, Executive Director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund put it: "The two go hand in hand. We will not have large carnivores unless we protect large wildlands."

To meet this need, WildFutures Director Sharon Negri hired filmmaker John De Graaf to collaborate on the creation of a compelling documentary that could meet the needs of a wide range of conservation groups. De Graaf is best known for his award-winning documentary Affluenza (a rallying cry for the voluntary simplicity movement) and his film, David Brower, a tribute to the legendary founder of Earth Island Institute.

The resulting 25-minute long film, On Nature's Terms: Predators and People Co-existing in Harmony offers inspiring narratives that show how the country's attitudes toward predators are undergoing a profound change. With images of US Forest Service teams removing roads to restore habitats, ranchers adopting non-lethal predator controls, and coalitions of individuals and agencies cooperating to protect critical wildlife corridors, On Nature's Terms clearly demonstrates that humans can learn to coexist with predator species.

The film briefly recounts the overblown myths about grizzlies, lions and wolves that fueled the near-extermination of predator populations as our pioneer ancestors made their way west. Even after the frontier was settled, the media continued to inflame public fears, portraying wild animals as a danger to public safety and agriculture. Many of these antiquated notions still persist.

Today, the biggest threat to predators is the loss of habitat as urban sprawl and road-building pave wildlands, fragmenting them into isolated biological islands in a sea of human development. Predators are the one group of terrestrial fauna that is most at-risk from the geographic isolation caused by roads.

On Nature's Terms addresses the crisis with the hopeful narratives of rural and urban Americans who are finding solutions to living in harmony with predator species. The personal stories of these biologists, conservationists, homeowners, ranchers and agency personnel reveal a profound transformation of thought -- from viewing predators as threats and commodities to a newfound realization of the important role these animals play in maintaining the balance of nature,

This role is a complex one. Conservation biologists consider large .predators the "top-down regulators" of the natural world -- meaning they exert a controlling influence on their prey and, in turn, every other part of the food pyramid. …

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