Rural System's

Interactive Units in Natural Resource Management

The Eras of Faunal Exploitation and Management

History reveals that we do not learn from history. Nevertheless, people continue to act as if we do and to say history is important. Perhaps. Perhaps how people use knowledge of the past is the problem. Perhaps the units in which they recorded observations were inappropriate. One of the ways that faunal system managers know anything is based on how systems have been structured and how they have functioned in the past.

These are only a few of the many ways possible.

Human habitation in the US is dated at about 12,000 years before-present (bp). These were the Paleolithic hunters. They were probably quite primitive folks, and they were called Cro-Magnon and other names.

At 11,000 bp, there were the Mesolithic hunters and fishing groups in Europe, and at about the same time people were first seen widely in North America. Clovis people were identified about then. Their spear points had a clearly identifiable fluted grove for the spear shaft.

Around 10,000 years bp, the glaciers of North America receded and we see evidence of Clovis and Folsom people. The humans in North America can be conceived as occupants in groups for only about 10,000 years. These people were of a hunting culture. They were omnivores, opportunists, tool users, predators, and behaviorally or otherwise adapted to survival at the edge of the glaciers.

This was the Primitive Hunting and Fishing Era.

There appear to be 10 eras.

These eras are..."

  1. Primitive Hunting 12,000 - 4,500 bp (1988)
  2. Primitive Agriculture 4,500 - 1,000
  3. Pre-colonial 1,000 - 500
  4. Colonial 500 - 300
  5. Abundance 300 - 140
  6. Exploitation 140 - 90
  7. Protection 90 - 60
  8. Game Management 60 - 25
  9. Environmental Management 25 - 5
  10. Retrenchment and Faunal Systems Management 5 - ...

We have already discussed The Primitive Hunting and Fishing Era.

The Primitive Agriculture Era

Starting about 4500 bp, pre-settlement people in the US began agriculture. Only primitive tools were used. Competition with other fauna for the food produced must have been enormous. Yet, inefficient and with results shared with pests, agriculture surpassed hunting and gathering as a life style. It had survival value.

The Pre-Colonial Era

We skip the beginnings of civilization which were about 6000 bp (Egyptian and Sumerian), note the rise or flowering of Greek civilization at about 3000 bp, and the beginning of Mexican and Mayan civilizations shortly thereafter. More than 3000 years bp the Norsemen came to the area which is now the US.

The Roman empire was conspicuous in 2000 bp.

Early explorations and several failed colonies...some failures probably related to faunally transmitted diseases...are all that can be seen in the late Pre-Colonial Era. Diaries recorded abundant and conspicuous wildlife.

The Colonial Era

Shaw suggested that the era lasted to 1600 when the first wildlife laws were passed. The laws suggested that the country was no longer populated with strictly independent, solitary colonists, but people who saw good in groups and social structure.

Wildlife was abundant, the colonists were few. The colonists could live off of wildlife. The techniques for taking it were limited or were just being learned from the native people.

Un-managed, populations fluctuated with lightning fires, floods, storms, and fires set by the native people or those that escaped the colonists.

Many forms of fauna were those common to late-stage succession, the climax biome. Wildlife, at least those of the climax, must have been very abundant. They filled all available habitats, relatively undisturbed except in spots.

The Abundance Era

The first wildlife laws were passed and massive exploitation of wildlife occurred. It was a period of abundance. Boffalo (bison) were hunted almost to extinction, as were beaver, antelope, and in many areas deer.

Habitat destruction (e.g., plowing, logging) participated along with improved weapons and unlimited, often wasteful, harvests to bring some of the spec tacular, and inconceivably-limited populations nearly to extinction.

Laws and enforcement were seen as the means to slow or stop the destruction and loss of the abundance.

The Exploitation Era

Shaw suggests 1850 to 1899 as the period. Wardens were hired, licenses were sold, Yellowstone Park was created, and the Magna Charta of 1215 was is the property of the state, not the landowner.

Few could see that land use changes, interactive with hunting and fishing... the conspicuous acts..., were resulting in wildlife population losses. The remedies were directed at hunting controls.

The Protection Era 1900-1929

Major federal wildlife laws were passed including the Lacey Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and federal refuges were established (1903).

The Game Management Era

Leopold's text on Game Management appeared in 1933, the Cooperative Wildlife Research Units were established in 1935, and the first North American Wildlife Conference was held.

The Wilderness Act was passed in 1964.

Try to relate these dates to your age. How many years ago did these events occur? How many managerial life-times did it take to get each Act passed, each area preserved?

The Environmental Management Era

Starting in the late 1960's, interest shifted from game to other animals, particularly birds and threatened and endangered species.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was passed, Earth Day synthesiz- ed interest and action, and a variety of environmental laws and court actions were very conspicuous. Enormous changes occurred in the bredth of interest in soil, water, air, toxicants, solid waste, and land use changes such as dams, and powerlines. There was little new involvement by the wildlife community except for work with endangered species and with the threats of chemicals in the environment.

In 1980 the Nongame Wildlife Act was passed but as of 1988 (and probably later), not a cent of the funds provided had been authorized to be spent. Many wildlife agencies and staff began to devote large amounts of time to very broad environmental topics. Coordination and meetings, law suits, and hearings became topics. Demands for more public participation in meetings and public decisions were notable. Much change evolved around the environmental impact statement and the related impact assessment report.

The Retrenchment and Faunal System Management Era

Moen's book `Wildlife Ecology' became available in 1973 but it did not begin to have effects on students or the agencies for another 10 years. Energetics and computer applications were slowly becomming recognized.

In the mid-1980's federal funding was drastically cut in all natural resource areas. Job positions could not be filled. Environmental agencies were demoralized, schools unable to maintain student enrollment, staff had to carry-out legal mandates.

It was a time for retrenchment. Everyone's job was at risk. Enviromental consulting firms closed in droves. Students shifted curricula. No one rocked the boat because there was risk of job loss and no alternative positions.

Retirement of wildlife agency staff was the only hope of the university graduate for a place of employment.

Like a forest monoculture planted in the same year, large numbers of wildlife staff did retire. They had begun their careers in the post World War II period, the adolescent period of scientific wildlife resource management. It was a time for new leaders; `dominants' relinquished their turf, but simultaneously budgets were cut, staff asked to retire, employment frozen... the retrenchment would have to wait. Retrenchment was maladaptive...survival was the coffee-table topic.

In the mid-1980's several textbooks appeared demonstrating the applications of systems sciences in wildlife management. Environmentally interested staff became aware of the enormous complexity of even the most simple system.

Aspirations of mastering total systems slipped away with the funding as well as the arrival of new realizations about the complexity and several failures.

Where 20 years previously, ecologists had complained that no computers were large enough to handle the complexity of the ecosystem, new super-computers became available with capacity beyond that ever dreamed by the faunal system designer.

Simultaneously, microcomputers became readily available. At VPI and SU, every incomming engineering student was required to have his or her own computer.

Interest (at least those supported by research and development funds) turned from the large system to those that could be handled on the small computer. Interest narrowed to faunal systems rather than total ecological or environmental systems. It became a time to retrench, to develop theory, to clean shop, to improve faunal work, to plan the next assaults on the larger systems where problems of human scale exist

It was a time for retrenchment. Political and budgetary upheval in the mid 1990's demoralized agencies; experienced staff took early retirement;RIF or reduction in force was a common topic. Needs increased as wildlife agency staff and budgets were cut drastically.

~ ~ ~ ~


One glimmer of a new spirit within the field appeared as comprehensive, total faunal management enterprises began to appear. It seemed that private enterprise might be able to achieve many of the objectives presumed to be limited to the state, provincial, and national agencies.

There are 10 eras.

  1. What is the time between each era?
  2. What is the trend in time between eras?
  3. Is it constant?
  4. What might be the length to the current era if past trends persist?
  5. What is your forecast?
  6. What change will you make in your operations based on that projection?

The last question is one of feedforward.

Perhaps the next era will be called `entrepreneurial'. It may be that agency and public faunal system management will become more business-like and that the company or private investor will assume much of the activity now assumed to be the role of the `wildlife agency.'

See the eras listed with the time between each so that you can answer some of the above questions.

Please link to the Contents and the units of Capper.

Perhaps you will share ideas with us about some of the topic(s) above .

Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above .


Rural System
Robert H. Giles, Jr.
July 3, 2005