CORRESPONDENCE

US bill illustrates how conservation triage can lead to extinctions

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.
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Uppsala University, Sweden.

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Oviedo University, Spain.

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Conservation triage, the prioritization of conservation efforts by explicit economic accounting, may not be used to determine listing decisions under the US Endangered Species Act of 1973. This could change with the proposed US H.R.717 Listing Reform Act that has been submitted to Congress (see also go.nature.com/2e6s8fo and go.nature.com/2bftgd4).

The bill proposes to “preclude the listing of a species as threatened due to the likelihood of significant, cumulative economic effects that would result from such listing or from the likely resulting designation of critical habitat of the species”. Economic effects include those relating to public and private lands, property values, the provision of public services, employment and revenues available for governments. This triage process would effectively legitimize species extinctions by ruling out conservation programmes that conflict with economic interests.

Conservation triage puts a mathematical gloss on extinctions, presenting them as neutral outputs of optimization algorithms and branding itself as effective science that is based on data and not dogma. It is crucial to oppose the ‘new conservation’ paradigm: it is performing a conceptual triage on conservation itself.

Nature 554, 300 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-02064-4
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