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Sierra Club Conservation Policies

Wildlife and Native Plants

The key to wildlife and native plant conservation is the continued existence of diverse natural ecosystems and the preservation of native biodiversity. The Sierra Club is committed to maintaining the world's remaining natural ecosystems, and, where feasible, to the restoration and rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems. Wildlife, plants, and their ecosystems have value in their own right, as well as value to humans and to the health of the biosphere.

  1. Habitat -- Habitat simplification, fragmentation, degradation, and elimination pose the greatest threats to natural ecosystems and biodiversity and must be counteracted by reasonable and effective measures for the long-term preservation of intact ecosystems. Such measures should be incorporated into decisions made by all levels of government. All society should help develop and implement wildlife and native plant conservation measures that protect ecosystems and our wildlife heritage.
  2. Wildlife and Native Plant Management -- Within natural ecosystems, natural diversity and abundance of wildlife and plants should be ensured by means that involve a minimum of overt human interference. Ecosystems modified by human activities should be managed to ensure optimum native diversity and numbers of wildlife and plants to natural historic levels where feasible, with emphasis on restoration and rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems to a more natural condition.
  3. Wildlife and Native Plant Management, Sport Hunting And Fishing -- Wildlife and native plant management should emphasize maintenance and restoration of healthy, viable native plant and animal populations, their habitats, and ecological processes. Acceptable management approaches include both regulated periodic hunting and fishing when based on sufficient scientifically valid biological data and when consistent with all other management purposes and when necessary total protection of particular species or populations. Because national parks are set aside for the preservation of natural landscapes and wildlife, the Sierra Club is opposed to sport hunting in national parks.
  4. Threatened and Endangered Species -- Because of species' value to ecosystems and to humans and for their intrinsic values, every effort should be made to prevent the extinction of species due to human activities. The Sierra Club vigorously supports strong and vibrant federal and state endangered species acts and related laws as well as recovery programs that protect wildlife, plants, and natural ecosystems.
  5. Education -- Educational programs that create a sense of stewardship and respect for natural ecosystems should be encouraged.
  6. Introduction of Wildlife and Plants -- Wildlife and plants should not be introduced into habitats where they are not native when introduction may have adverse effects. Non-native species should, where feasible, be removed or controlled if there is a proven conflict with the native ecosystem.
  7. Commercial Wildlife And Plant Use -- Regulated use of wildlife and native plants for commercial purposes may be appropriate when
    1. harvest techniques are narrowly focused on the target organisms,
    2. such techniques are closely supervised and monitored for adverse effects,
    3. such techniques avoid or minimize these adverse effects and minimize suffering and harassment, and
    4. such techniques retain the natural condition of affected ecosystems. " Nonconsumptive" uses of wildlife, such as bird watching and ecotouring, should also be conducted in a manner to protect wildlife, plants, and their natural ecosystems.

  8. Pet Trade and Laboratory Research -- Wildlife and plants may be removed from natural ecosystems for scientific and laboratory research provided that the removal is conducted in a manner that will not degrade the natural ecosystem. The Sierra Club is generally opposed to the removal of wildlife and native plants from wild habitats for pets or gardening and is generally opposed to the international wildlife pet trade.
  9. Full Protection -- Some species or populations of wildlife and native plants may be so valuable for research, education, recreation, or aesthetic purposes that they should receive full protection. Similarly, some species or populations should be protected where regulations are ineffective or absent.
  10. Wildlife and Native Plant Damage Control -- Improved wildlife and plant management, agricultural and other human practices should be aimed at discouraging human/ wildlife/plant conflicts, with emphasis on nonlethal control of wildlife when feasible.
  11. Zoos, Aquaria and Botanical Gardens -- Public and private zoos, aquaria and botanical gardens should be well-maintained and properly regulated and serve important educational, preservation, and scientific needs.
  12. International Cooperation -- Bilateral and multilateral agreements and cooperative efforts should ensure that wildlife, native plants, and their natural ecosystems are managed in all countries in a manner consistent with the positions advocated here. International agreements and treaties should not restrict the responsibilities and efforts of individual countries to protect wildlife, native plants, and their ecosystems. Each nation should live up to the highest standards of care notwithstanding lesser international obligations.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, December 10-11, 1994 [superseded policies adopted May 4-5, 1974, and September 28, 1957]


Guidelines for Implementing this policy:

The key to wildlife and native plant conservation is the continued existence of diverse natural ecosystems and the preservation of native biodiversity. The Sierra Club is committed to maintaining the world's remaining natural ecosystems -- marine, aquatic and terrestrial. Where feasible, the Sierra Club is also committed to restoring and rehabilitating to a natural condition those ecosystems that are presently degraded by human activities.

All living organisms and their natural ecosystems possess intrinsic, spiritual, and ethical values that cannot be measured in human economic or utilitarian terms. All actions, regulations, plans and legislation that address or affect wildlife and native plants should incorporate the concept of intrinsic values as appropriate. The Sierra Club believes that preserving wildlife, plants, and native ecosystems is a moral and ethical obligation that all people share. Wildlife, both animals and plants and their habitat, are an essential component of fully functioning ecosystems and are a barometer of the well-being of the biosphere.

The better wildlife and plants can be maintained in all of their abundance and diversity, the better the habitat for all life on this Earth, and the greater the number of ecological choices for the future. Human over-population and over-consumption of resources threatens natural ecosystems on a global scale.

Habitat -- The Sierra Club recognizes that habitat simplification, fragmentation, degradation, and elimination pose the greatest threats to the continued well-being of healthy and diverse wildlife and plant ecosystems and biodiversity. Measures to counteract this trend must increase on both public and private land, and include whole ecosystems regardless of jurisdictional and political boundaries. All of society should help develop and implement wildlife and plant conservation measures that protect ecosystems and our wildlife heritage. These measures should address, but not be limited to:

  • sound land-use planning (including zoning for wildlife and native plants) aimed at preserving native biodiversity, at each relevant governmental level;
  • explicit attention to wildlife and plant habitat values affected by human projects and activities;
  • native habitat maintenance, monitoring, enhancement, and restoration/rehabilitation;
  • habitat acquisition across the natural spectrum of ecosystems;
  • adequate mitigation in cases where human projects or activities adversely affect habitat values, and damage cannot be avoided or minimized;
  • cooperative habitat programs at international, national, state and local levels between and within government agencies and non- governmental organizations, as well as the business community, landowners, and the general public;
  • provisions for natural movements of wildlife and plant populations (habitat linkages or wildlife corridors);
  • provisions for specific habitat requirements, such as adequate water supplies for aquatic species;
  • provisions for buffers and other management strategies to prevent conflicts between people and wildlife and native plants;
  • long-range research and planning, on a biological basis, by federal, state, and local wildlife agencies, which should include public participation at all times;
  • encouragement for humans to eat lower on the food chain in order to better conserve habitats and avoid pollution problems;
  • elimination of noxious exotic wildlife and plants; and
  • adequate government and private funding to carry out wildlife and native plant programs.

Habitat Conservation Plans -- A Habitat Conservation Plan, developed pursuant to the U.S. Endangered Species Act, is a plan to ensure the long-term sustainability of wildlife habitat. Habitat Conservation Plans are a compromise, and as such may not provide the best plan for protection and recovery of threatened and endangered species. The Sierra Club supports Habitat Conservation Plans that will prevent species extinctions; provide long-term habitat protection of adequate size and quality to maintain the biodiversity of the area; and provide adequate funding and other resources to maintain, enhance, restore/rehabilitate, and monitor the habitat over time.

Habitat Conservation Plans should be based on sufficient scientifically valid biological information. Habitat monitoring should be required by federal and state agencies to ensure that the purposes of the Habitat Conservation Plan are being carried out on an ongoing basis. Enforcement and severe sanctions should be maintained to prevent degradation of the habitat area in violation of Habitat Conservation Plan goals.

Wildlife and Native Plant Management

Within natural ecosystems, the Sierra Club believes natural diversity and abundance of wildlife and native plants should be ensured by means that involve a minimum of overt human interference.

Within ecosystems modified by human activities, the Sierra Club believes that these systems should be managed to ensure optimum diversity and numbers of wildlife and native plants to natural historic levels where feasible, with emphasis on restoration and rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems to a more natural condition.

Within both modified and natural ecosystems, the Sierra Club believes that acceptable management approaches include education, research, census, law enforcement, restoration of naturally occurring species to historic population levels and geographic ranges where feasible, habitat acquisition and protection, and regulation or elimination of competition by commercial interests.

Wildlife and native plant management should give highest priority to maintaining the natural biodiversity of wildlife ecosystems, which must include sufficient landscape sizes and linkages to ensure survival of wide-ranging, low-density species.

Sport Hunting and Fishing -- Within both modified and natural ecosystems, the Sierra Club believes that acceptable management approaches include regulated periodic hunting and fishing when based on sufficient scientifically valid biological information and when consistent with all other management purposes and when necessary total protection of particular species or populations. Because national parks are set aside for the preservation of natural landscapes and wildlife, the Sierra Club is opposed to sport hunting in national parks and national monuments.

Threatened and Endangered Species of Wildlife and Plants -- Every effort should be made to prevent the extinction of a species due to human activities. Toward this goal every effort must be made to prevent any population from becoming threatened or endangered in all or any significant part of its range, and to return to optimum historic population sizes those species that are currently threatened, endangered, or in unnatural decline. Habitat protection efforts are critical to the long-term protection and recovery of threatened and endangered species. The Sierra Club vigorously supports strong and vibrant federal and state endangered species acts and related laws as well as recovery programs that protect wildlife, native plants, and natural ecosystems.

Education -- The Sierra Club encourages educational programs that create a sense of stewardship and respect for lands and waters, our wildlife, both animals and plants and their habitats, and natural ecosystems.

Law Enforcement -- The Sierra Club favors effective and efficient enforcement of protective laws and regulations that further the positions advocated here, including mandatory forfeiture of weapons, vehicles, and all other devices used in poaching. Courts should levy meaningful fines and sentences that provide an adequate deterrent. Agencies charged with enforcement should seek and be given sufficient resources to carry out this mandate, including fine moneys. In general, public cooperation with and support for law enforcement personnel and activities should be encouraged and actively promoted.

Introduction and Removal of Wildlife and Native Plants -- Wildlife and plants should not be introduced into habitats where they are not native when introduction may have adverse effects. Proposed wildlife and plant introduction and removals should be prohibited until an adequate research study is completed that indicates whether or not such action will have an adverse effect on the natural ecosystem involved. The Sierra Club supports the removal or control of non-native species and rehabilitation and restoration of native ecosystems, unless it is no longer feasible to do so or there is not a documented conflict with the native ecosystem.

The Sierra Club encourages the use of native species in restoration and rehabilitation programs, landscaping, and other similar activities under artificial conditions. Reintroduction of extirpated wildlife species should be encouraged and conducted within that particular species' historic range.

Commercial Wildlife and Native Plant Use -- Regulated use of native plants and wildlife for commercial purposes may be appropriate when:

  • "harvest" techniques are narrowly focused on the target organisms to avoid harm to non-target species,
  • such techniques are closely supervised and monitored for adverse effects,
  • such techniques avoid or minimize any adverse effects and minimize suffering and harassment, and
  • such techniques retain the natural condition of affected ecosystems. The Sierra Club opposes "game ranching" with non-native species and the use of captive wildlife for sport hunting ("canned hunts") or commercial products. "Game ranching" of native species may be appropriate only when such activities will not degrade natural ecosystems and endanger populations and when commercial activity will not encourage poaching. "Nonconsumptive" uses of wildlife and native plants, such as bird watching and ecotouring, should also be conducted in a manner to protect natural ecosystems.

Full Protection -- Some species or populations of wildlife and native plants may be so valuable for research, education, recreation, or aesthetic purposes that they should receive full protection. Similarly, some species or populations should be fully protected where management regulations are ineffective or absent.

Wildlife and Plant Damage Control -- The Sierra Club believes that improved wildlife and plant management, agricultural and other human practices that discourage and prevent human/wildlife/plant conflicts should be employed in place of wildlife/plant control measures whenever feasible. Non-lethal methods of reducing damage should be utilized in place of lethal control measures when feasible. If these methods are not sufficient, lethal management and control of wildlife or plants should be targeted toward individual problem animals or plants.

The Sierra Club opposes the use of non-selective and often mis-used predator control techniques such as poisons, bounties, and aerial shooting. The Sierra Club opposes predator control aimed at creating artificial surpluses of other wildlife species. The United States Animal Damage Control Program should be terminated. Federal agencies should instead contract for any necessary control of individual animals or plants with state and provincial wildlife agencies if other methods of avoiding human/wildlife/plant conflicts are not sufficient.

Wildlife and Native Plants as Pets or Domestic Plants -- The Sierra Club is generally opposed to the removal of wildlife and native plants from wild habitats for pets and gardening and is generally opposed to the international trade in wildlife and native plants for pets and gardening.

Wildlife and Native Plants in Laboratory Research -- The capture or collection of wildlife and native plants for scientific and laboratory research should be conducted for understanding and conservation of wildlife, plants, and their natural ecosystems, provided that the capture or collection of wildlife and native plants is conducted in a manner that will not degrade the natural ecosystem and in a manner that minimizes physical and emotional suffering.

Zoos, Aquaria and Botanical Gardens -- The Sierra Club believes that public and private zoos, aquaria and botanical gardens should be well maintained and properly regulated and serve important educational, preservation and scientific needs. Educational programs should stress stewardship and respect for the land and its wildlife and native plans. Zoos, aquaria and botanical gardens should recognize their foremost responsibility is the welfare of the species and should not be collections for public entertainment or private profit. Wildlife and native plants should be maintained in as natural a situation as possible for the well-being of individuals and for education of the public about habitats and ecosystems. Zoos, aquaria, and botanical gardens or their agents should not remove from the wild species that can be bred in captivity, nor any animal of a species or population that is threatened, endangered or in unnatural decline, unless there is no alternative to ensure the species' survival. While captive breeding of a species can augment preservation efforts, zoo breeding programs are not a substitute for protection of wildlife, both plants and animals and their habitats, or natural ecosystems.

Urban Wildlife and Native Plants -- In order to encourage and foster native wildlife, both plants and animals and their habitats, in the urban environment, decision-makers and other individuals are encouraged to maintain, restore/rehabilitate, or approximate all possible portions of the natural ecosystems surrounding and within urban areas. Special attention should be paid to habitat linkages or wildlife corridors. The Sierra Club favors the use of native species in landscaping and other artificial situations. Urban planning should be based on the communities' natural features and values, as much as possible.

International Cooperation -- The Sierra Club believes that bilateral and multilateral agreements and cooperative efforts should ensure that wildlife, native plants, and their natural ecosystems are managed in all countries in a manner consistent with the positions advocated here. International agreements and treaties should not restrict the responsibilities and efforts of individual countries to protect wildlife, native plants, and their ecosystems. Each nation should live up to the highest standards of care notwithstanding lesser international treaty obligations.

Where migratory wildlife cross national boundaries or live in international waters, agreement to protect and conserve such species is the responsibility of all nations and should be achieved by treaty with appropriate domestic legislation, and cooperation with multinational organizations. Public involvement in multinational decision-making forums must be fostered and maintained. In this spirit, we should view our own country as a trustee to the world for our native wildlife, both plants and animals and their habitat, and natural ecosystems.


Definitions

  • Wildlife -- any member of the animal kingdom, including without limitation, any mammal, fish, bird, amphibian, reptile, mollusk, arthropod, worm, or other invertebrate, with the exception of domesticated animals and humans.
  • Native Plants -- any member of the plant kingdom, except non- native species and domesticated plant species.
  • Species -- any group of wildlife or plants of the same species or smaller taxa in common spatial arrangement that interbreed and produce fertile offspring.
  • Threatened Species -- any native species that is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its historic natural range.
  • Endangered Species -- any native species in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its historic natural range.
  • Biodiversity -- the entire complement of an area's native plant, animal, and microorganism populations, living together in a sustained ecological system, occurring in their patterns of natural abundance.
  • Ecosystem -- any integrated system of biological and non-living entities and processes that sustain life in an area. As used in this policy, ecosystems include genetic diversity, inter- and intra-species interactions, species populations, habitats, and interactions with soils, climate, and nutrient and energy cycles.
  • Habitat -- the vegetative structure, vegetative composition, aquatic and marine systems, soil types, and other biological and nonbiological parameters that function to provide for wildlife feeding, reproduction, cover, growth, pollination, and movement between habitats.

Guidelines developed by the Wildlife Committee, December 1994.

Note: Additional information on wildlife is to be found in other policies and guidelines, including Grazing on Public Lands, Feral Animals and Pest Management.


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