Introduction: Knowing the Wild

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Departmental Papers (HSS)
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Animal Sciences
Earth Sciences
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment
Environmental Monitoring
Forest Sciences
History of Science, Technology, and Medicine
Place and Environment
Plant Sciences
Remote Sensing
Research Methods in Life Sciences
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The argument that wildlife conservation and the science that supports it are contentious and politicized is, of course, not new. American wildlife managers and biologists have been complaining about "biopolitics"—understood as political interference into decisions properly left to experts—since at least as far back as the 1930s, when they first established the journals, conferences, professional associations, degree programs, and financial supporters that allowed them to lay claim to the status of an autonomous, self-accrediting profession. Conservation activists have regularly protested the manipulation of policy by (other) special interests. New administrations in Washington have brought sudden reversals in supposedly science-based government policies; populations designated as "threatened" or "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act have been delisted under one administration only to be relisted under the next, with little if any change in the scientific evidence. This sort of political conflict is well worth attending to, but as this book argues, disputes over the interpretation and application of scientific findings are not the only or, in many cases, the most important way in which wildlife biology becomes imbued with social values. As the history of wildlife radiotelemetry over the past half century shows, an engaged public, consisting often of small but highly vocal activists, some of them also scientists, has shaped the techniques that scientists can use and thus the kinds of findings that may be politicized in the first place.

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