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The Green Life: Power to the People

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June 03, 2011

Power to the People

Elephant Here in the U.S., protecting endangered species is the government’s job. But in the red desert of Namibia, the government has turned wildlife management over to the people. Today, “community conservancies” manage almost 20% of Namibia’s land and — surprise! — it’s working.

While species are in steep decline in nearby African nations, they're doing better in Namibia. Here's why: Farmers keep their livestock on land that's close to wildlife sanctuaries, where they earn extra income by running safaris and game hunts. Eco-tourism not only increases farmers’ income, but also provides protection for creatures such as rhinos, lions, and elephants.

To quote Richard Conniff's piece about this topic, “It's as if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service handed gray wolf recovery over to cattle ranchers in Wyoming.” Bad idea? Maybe not.

The Grassland Foundation in Nebraska's Sand Hills is trying it out. After sending representatives to Namibia, Nebraskan farmers are looking to diversify their economy and save wildlife by combining ranching with eco-tourism. Maybe this is exactly what species like the gray wolf need, now that they’ve lost federal protection.

Read the full report at Yale Environment 360, and tell us what you think.

--Christa Morris

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