I have to disagree with Leigh Bernacchi’s argument for some sort of "Ecosystem Protection Act" (HCN, 5/1/06: Is Pombo the kick we need?). True, ecosystem management is becoming the norm for land management policy, but it’s a lot easier to find a single species’ place in an ecosystem than it is to find all the connections that make that ecosystem function.
Although there is some debate among biologists as to what exactly defines a species, it’s a much more discrete concept than an ecosystem. Who would be responsible for defining ecosystems? Gale Norton? Besides, usually when you manage for "suitable habitat," you’re managing for the ecosystem that historically supported the species.
Bernacchi is right that we should be humbled by the intricacies of nature, but she needs to give biologists more credit. We understand plenty about how certain species could be saved; the difficulty usually lies in returning the landscape to the natural ecological processes in which they once flourished, and reducing the impact of the species that has modified its environment the most: Homo sapiens.
Oak View, California