Of fire and ice

In this issue of Decision Point we examine many of the values that surround our environmental decisions and I’ve categorised them here as being connected to fire or ice.

Up front it’s fire with an editorial on one of the firiest topics around – the pros and cons of percentage targets for fuel reduction burns. Victoria is reviewing the recommendation of adopting a 5% target (ie, burning 390,000 ha across Victoria every year). Is this wise? See what our fire ecologists think…

In ‘Making the most of our flagship species‘ you’ll find a polar bear loping over a field so you’re probably thinking this is one of the ‘ice’ stories but you’d be wrong. Joe Bennett examines whether raising funds for flagship species such as polar bears is an efficient form of conservation. It’s marketing based on passion, so I’ve categorising this story as ‘fire’.

The issue turns icy with Roberto Salguero-Gómez and Nathalie Butt contemplating failure. Their survey revealed our top researchers are good at sharing success but keep failure to themselves. Is this healthy (and what should we do about it)?

Our guest contributor in this issue is Professor Rick Taylor from UBC, Vancouver. He gives us a thumb-nail sketch of how threatened species are listed in Canada. It’s a process involving cold hard science (ice) tempered by political reality (fire). Guess which wins? (And I get to squeeze in a second image of a polar bear!)

And then there’s our workshop report on animal telemetry and spatial conservation. The fire is the passion these researchers have for their technology and their efforts to realise conservation outcomes. The ice is the blobs of frozen water floating around the elephant seals they’ve attached radio data loggers to.

Environmental decision scientists are sometimes accused of being all ice (rational) and no fire (passion). Hopefully this issue goes someway to dispelling that myth.

David Salt
Editor Decision Point

David.Salt@anu.edu.au

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