“In November of 2011, with a generous grant from the William S. Richardson School of Law’s Environmental Law Program, I was able to attend the 19th Annual Wildlife Society Conference at Waikoloa on the Big Island. This conference is one of the premier national gatherings of resource managers and conservationists who are dealing with the science and practice of invasive species management, climate change, habitat restoration, and an array of other environmental topics. Though not directly geared toward the world of law and policy, the conference addressed a myriad of issues that are central to public land management and endangered species protection. As Dean Antolini once told me, in order to protect endangered species and habitats in the court system, a lawyer needs to understand the objects of his or her efforts.
The conference provided an opportunity to participate in a mind-boggling array of panel presentations of national and international scope. I chose to focus my limited time on attending presentations specifically pertinent to Hawaii. Some of the half-day presentations I attended, which were each made up of multiple sub-presentations, included: “Past, Present, Future: Implementing Hawaiian Culture in Conservation”; “Wild Pigs: An Overview of History, Status, and Management”; “Science and Wildlife Conservation on the Hawaiian Islands”; “Hawaii Wildlife and Conservation in the Twenty-First Century”; and, “Invasive Species Management.”
As serendipity would have it, I am currently working on a pro bono project that centers on land management and feral pigs. I was able to call the individuals whose presentations I attended to get research precisely on point with my project. This leads me to my central observation from the conference; there is an amazing body of scientific research being conducted by dedicated and concerned scientists ranging from the reaction of elk herds to natural gas drilling to the use of acoustic deterrents to prevent bat fatality from wind turbines. What is lacking, are solid bridges between the world of science and public policy, between science and public perception, and between science and law. Again and again, someone would close his or her presentation with a call for help or a call for a change in public policy to address a pressing environmental concern. Though not falling on deaf ears, these pleas were heard almost exclusively by other scientists, each equally concerned about their own area of research. There was obvious frustration that long-term and repeated empirical evidence of ecological decline seemed to have so little effect on public perception or government action. So fellow students, it is at least in part, up to us – the policy makers and litigators of tomorrow – to pay attention. These folks are a valuable resource.”