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University of Washington Press
The Dawn of Conservation Diplomacy: U.S.-Canadian Wildlife Protection Treaties in the Progressive Era

The Dawn of Conservation Diplomacy: U.S.-Canadian Wildlife Protection Treaties in the Progressive Era

by Kurkpatrick Dorsey, William Cronon


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The Dawn of Conservation Diplomacy: U.S.-Canadian Wildlife Protection Treaties in the Progressive Era

In the first decades of the twentieth century, fish in the Great Lakes and Puget Sound, seals in the North Pacific, and birds across North America faced a common threat: over harvesting that threatened extinction for many species. Progressive era conservationists saw a need for government intervention to protect threatened animals. And because so many species migrated across international political boundaries, their protectors saw the necessity of international conservation agreements. In The Dawn of Conservation Diplomacy, Kurkpatrick Dorsey examines the first three comprehensive wildlife conservation treaties in history, all between the United States and Canada: the Inland Fisheries Treaty of 1908, the North Pacific Fur Seal Convention of 1911, and the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1916.

In his highly readable text, Dorsey argues that successful conservation treaties came only after conservationists learned to marshal scientific evidence, public sentiment, and economic incentives in their campaigns for protective legislation. The first treaty, intended to rescue the overfished boundary waters, failed to gain the necessary support and never became law. Despite scientific evidence of the need for conservation, politicians, and the general public were unable to counter the vocal opposition of fishermen across the continent. A few years later, conservationists successfully rallied popular sympathy for fur seals threatened with slaughter and the North Pacific Fur Seal Convention was adopted. By the time of the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1916, the importance of aesthetic appeal was clear: North American citizens were joining chapters of the Audubon Society in efforts to protect beautiful songbirds. Conservationists also presented economic evidence to support their efforts as they argued that threatened bird species provided invaluable service to farmers.

Dorsey recounts the story of each of these early treaties, examining the scientific research that provided the basis for each effort, acknowledging the complexity of the issues, and presenting the personalities behind the politics. He argues that these decades-old treaties both directly affect us today and offer lessons for future conservation efforts.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780295976761
Publisher: University of Washington Press
Publication date: 09/28/1998
Series: Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.94(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Kurkpatrick Dorsey is associate professor of history at the University of New Hampshire.

University of Washington Press

Table of Contents

Foreword by William CrononAcknowledgmentsIntroduction: The Intersection of Diplomacy and ConservationPART ONE: THE INLAND FISHERIES TREATYA Problem of Scale, 1892-1897The Jordon Rules, 1898-1909The One That Got Away, 1909-1914PART TWO: THE NORTH PACIFIC FUR SEAL CONVENTIONConflict in the Bering Sea, 1886-1899Conciliation and Conservation, 1900-1912PART THREE: THE MIGRATORY BIRD TREATYOf Mallards and Men, 1883-1913Coordinating Science, Diplomacy, and Public Relations, 1913-1916Protecting the National Interest, 1916-1920Epilogue: Implications of the Progressive TreatiesNotesBibliographyIndex

University of Washington Press

What People are Saying About This

Walter LaFeber

This is a pioneering work that opens fresh, important perspectives on Americans by revealing their views on preserving (and exploiting) their natural environment, their introduction to science into policy decisions, their too-often cynical approach to relations with Canada, and their political genius for 'the art of the deal.' And it is all superbly done.

John English

Kurkpatrick Dorsey understands how politics deeply affects diplomacy and how public opinion shapes conservation policies. So many issues are similar to those which frustrate Canadian and American negotiators today. The Dawn of Conservation Diplomacy is excellent history which illuminates both past and present.

Tom Dunlap

A well-researched and well-written account of an important early chapter in international wildlife preservation of interest not only to environmental historians but anyone interested in the contemporary problems of international cooperation for environmental preservation.

Gaddis Smith

Dorsey's superb book connects ecological science, economic interest groups, politics at the local, national, and international level, and the quirks and achievements of colorful advocates. Here is a model for a new and important field of international history.

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