Aboriginal Overkill and Native Burning: Implications for Modern Ecosystem Management Critique

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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 In an article with otherwise well-documented citations, referencing unpublished material shakes the foundation of the argument.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...
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