Letters From the West

Nature Conservancy’s Kareiva urges people-based environmentalism

The Nature Conservancy’s Chief Scientist Peter Kareiva has questioned some of the basic myths of environmentalism: that nature is fragile, that its highest value is as a place of solitude and that it’s best when people aren’t in it.

His writings that call Edward Abbey a hypocrite for writing about the value of solitude in his classic “Desert Solitaire” while telling of his loneliness in the Utah wilderness in his journal have triggered a backlash from environmental leaders like conservation biologist Michael Soule. Since the Nature Conservancy is the largest environmental group in the world, Kareiva’s voice is powerful.

The ecologist and evolutionary biologist had worked on the northern spotted owl case in the 1980s and went to work for the National Marine Fisheries Service when it developed the “Four H” plan for recovering salmon in the Columbia River Basin. (The four H’s are Hydroelectric, Hatcheries, Habitat and Harvest.) He’s been at the Nature Conservancy since 2002.

He spoke Thursday in Boise to the Idaho Environmental Forum. I interviewed him earlier and he will be the subject of my column Monday.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

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