aboriginal overkill and native burning implications for modern ecosystem management critique

Charles Kay’s article, “Aboriginal Overkill and Native Burning: Implications for Modern Ecosystem Management,” describes the apparent flaws in western environmental policy for park management. He describes how the current park management strategy is based on false interpretations of the perceived pre-Columbian, North American wilderness conditions and a desire to return to those conditions. Kay uses three major premises (intermediate conclusions) to support his argument against park policy and counter the predominant beliefs of today’s conservationists.

He breaks them into the following section headings: “Lack of Game, Aboriginal Overkill, and Native Burning” (Kay). Kay’s argument is based on his belief that national park and nature reserve management strategies rely almost entirely on false assumptions. The first assumption is that there is a “balance-of nature” and ecosystems are unchanging. Second is that before European arrival, there was a vast wilderness in North America and that this wilderness had an abundance of wildlife.

The last assumption Kay list is that Native Americans were either too primitive to have had an impact on their environment or such devout worshippers of nature to do any harm (Kay 359). Kay’s article focuses on the belief that these regeneration policies are a poor solution. The second intermediate conclusion within Kay’s article revolves around his hypothesis of “Aboriginal Overkill. ” He states that Native American hunting practices were likely more responsible for ungulate (moose, elk, bison) population degradation than other carnivorous species such as wolves.

The premises for this conclusion are presented soundly until Kay alludes to unfounded research that native people’s ungulate kills were predominantly female. In an article with otherwise well-documented citations, referencing unpublished material shakes the foundation of the argument. Fro the most part, Kay presents a valid argument with a multitude of figures and historic, first person observations, along with nine publications that he authored. Any assumptions made by him are explicit in nature, following a logical order to support his ideas.

There is undeniable past evidence of Native American’s modifying the landscape through burns for undergrowth management, hunting, warfare, etc. (Native). However, he has a habit in the article of oversimplifying environmental managers belief’s. This is illustrated by his use of inclusive language such as, “(A)ll that is needed to restore our ecosystems to their original condition is to eliminate European influences (Kay 359). When in reality, the manager’s have a much more intricate mission to protect the land, it is unrealistic to reduce policy goals to a blanket statement (National).

Kay is clearly guilty of the fallacy of omission by using the argument that because Native Americans altered the landscape we are justified in doing so and have no responsibility to preserve “natural “environments. Current management strategies are in place to do just that, manage the land and at their core; these strategies have many similarities with the pre-Columbus Native American population. Works Cited Kay, Charles E. , Ph. D. “Aboriginal Overkill and Native Burning: Implications for Modern EcoSystem Management.  Human Nature 5. 4 (1994): 359-98. Springer Link. Springer Link New York. Web. 11 Sept. 2012. <http://dx. doi. org/10. 1007/BF02734166>. “National Park Service Strategic Plan. ” National Park Service. N. p. , 2001. Web. 10 Sept. 2012. <http://planning. nps. gov/document/NPS_strategic_plan. pdf>. “Native American Use of Fire on the Colorado Plateau. ” Native American Use of Fire on the Colorado Plateau. N. p. , n. d. Web. 13 Sept. 2012. <http://cpluhna. nau. edu/Change/native_fire. htm>.

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