Sitting in Steve-o-Reno’s before last week’s holiday, over a coffee, I overheard an elderly woman describing her quest to eliminate coyotes on her farm. She worried for her grand-daughter after seeing six after the family dog. Her son told her she could only shoot one. First she soaked sponges in something delicious, hoping eating the sponges would make them sick. Coyotes stuck around. Then she smashed wine bottles to powder and made meatballs with the shards. That worked. Horrifying to hear, but an important reminder of challenges to biodiversity on farms. Threatening species often inspire responses that are disproportionate to the financial risks they represent; damaging species are the opposite.
I can sometimes be naive in how I engage with conservation stakeholder groups like farmers and anglers. I say to my collaborators, “I think most people want to know how to be ‘good'”. I encourage biologists to bring stakeholders into conservation discussions as experts and stewards. To assume the best rather than the worst. But it doesn’t always work. A survey we had in the field with anglers about shorebird conservation recently was trolled on Facebook by the head of an NB fishing group. He was discouraging anglers from participating in this research, because despite our collaborative intentions, the resulting paper may be used by others to refuse them access to beaches. It is disappointing to see that science is perceived as a threat.
It is perhaps characteristic of such groups to default to the most conservative mindset among their membership, leading from behind rather than out front. I found this interesting in the context of producer organizations. In research last year we found that Alberta groups with farmers as members (as opposed to their umbrella national organizations, often with organizations as members) tended to talk about weather instead of acknowledging climate change. It is not always this way, though. The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, a frequent collaborator has been a strong advocate of “mainstreaming” biodiversity-friendly farming, as evident through their partnership on Wood Turtle Strides.