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This paper provides a framework for understanding the Government's position on many wildlife topics, including humane ethics. The historical role of Government in wildlife conservation is traced in relation to pertinent theories of bureaucracy. It is shown that Government involvement in wildlife conservation increased through successive stages of change because of interest group activity.

These periods of increased Government involvement in wildlife matters are shown to have followed periods of resource exploitation. Recurrent cycles of exploitation, accompanied by economic prosperity, have then been followed by attitudes favorable to conservation and political activism. This, in turn, has produced periods of backlash when the public rejected Government regulation, which has then caused another period of exploitation.

However, the process of Government regulation works such that the losses during the periods of backlash have been of far lesser magnitude than the amount of permanent change introduced during major increments in growth of regulation. This paper shows that most of the permanent change in Government has been institutionalized through the creation of new staff within agencies who represent the position of interest groups on various issues. Direct communication between these internal staffs and their associated interest groups, special-purpose legislative appropriation, and advisory commissions, have given these organizations the appearance of independent regulatory agencies. This system has tended to produce a tension between the old and new roles of Government in wildlife conservation and has increased agency reliance on regulatory rules for making decisions.


Portions of this paper were presented at a symposium entitled "Wildlife Management in the United States: Scientific and Humane Issues in Conservation Programs." This symposium was held in St. Louis, MO at the Annual Meeting of The Humane Society of the United States on October 14, 1981.