Wednesday, August 5, 2009: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
Galisteo, Albuquerque Convention Center
Jessica J. Hellmann
Mark W. Schwartz
Global climate change is already causing many species to shift their geographic distribution northwards. Over the next century, species that are unable to track changing climatic conditions will be at risk of extinction. Unfortunately, many shifts in species distributions that might otherwise occur will be blocked by habitat fragmentation and anthropogenic barriers to dispersal. To combat this extinction threat, a new conservation strategy called "Managed Relocation" (also known as "Assisted Migration" or "Assisted Colonization") has been proposed. It advocates purposefully transporting species from where they presently occur to new more climatically suitable regions. There is broad controversy regarding the potential dangers, efficacy and legality of managed relocation. Some are concerned that moving species will backfire – that species transported will act like invaders, threatening those native species still living in place. Others are concerned that we don’t know enough to decide when and where to move species. The legal and ethical implications of managed relocation are also unclear. Nonetheless, some groups (like the Torreya Guardians, www.torreyaguardians.org) are already taking action. This concerns us. The strategy of managed relocation needs to be critically evaluated scientifically, ethically, and legally. Doing this now will facilitate the development of sound scientific strategy and needed policy before threats from this extinction crisis become critical. In this symposium, we attempt to initiate this evaluation by bringing together a diverse and interdisciplinary group of experts who can speak to the various complex and conflicting aspects of managed relocation. The first four speakers will collectively provide a physical, ecological, and evolutionary/genetic context for understanding (1) the risk of extinctions posed by climate change; and (2) the risks of collateral damage that initiating acts of managed relocation could entail. An environmental lawyer will provide an analysis of the legality of managed relocation under U.S. law. An environmental ethicist will unpack several of the more significant ethical challenges posed by this strategy. The results of a survey of expert opinion on perceived risks and benefits of managed relocation will be reported. A final speaker will provide a draft framework for evaluating conflicting ecological, social, and economic concerns relevant to managed relocation. We will conclude with a panel discussion. Our goals are two-fold: (1) to advance ecological science that is motivated by addressing this applied conservation problem; and (2) to initiate a dialogue with the ecological community that will lead the way forward for a more thorough evaluation of managed relocation.