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The West is Burning. It’s Time to Cooperate to Protect Animal Habitats

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about your individual situation it is best to seek the advice of an experienced legal professional.

We are living in unprecedented times. The wildfires ravaging the West are cumulatively the worst on record. They have displaced 10 percent of Oregon’s population, killed people and left many more in other states homeless or displaced. These are conservative figures. It means that we are only counting the humans who have been displaced. Far more vulnerable are the animals that have been killed or injured by the fires or have lost homes that will never be replaced. Animals will not receive damages for the loss of their homes. Their fates are in the hands of groups of humans, who often have a hard time working together.

What’s At Stake

Environmentalists fighting on behalf of animals and ecosystems have a lot to contend with. There are the farmers, the property developers, the industrialists, forestry management and the logging industry, as well as the homeowners themselves. Some of the industrialists can even claim moral superiority when they are razing habitats to make way for clean energy facilities, such as in the case of the Joshua Tree in California, which was given endangered status but still was fair game to be bulldozed for a green energy project. In this case interests that seem similar couldn’t be more opposed. However if cooperation is pursued rather than conflict a lot of common ground can be found. More importantly, if we look at the way the fires cross all boundaries – state lines, private property boundaries and the agreed habitats of endangered species – cooperation is the only productive way to limit damage. There is simply no productive way of going it alone in such destructive times. Animals’ interests must be considered, and in many cases it even benefits humans to protect animal interests. So what is at stake if humans don’t cooperate during these fires?

Humans have already wiped out two thirds of the worlds’ species in the last 50 years. The Australia fires were described as one of the worst wildlife disasters in history. Nearly 3 billion animals were killed or displaced in these fires. It’s almost impossible to wrap your head around the numbers. We don’t know yet what the animal death toll will be in the West’s fires, but we do already know that a number of endangered animals have lost great swathes of their population during the fires.

These animals exist in interdependent ecosystems. What’s at stake is often the loss of life and livelihood for many animals who are dependent on each other and their ecosystem. In an earlier blog we mentioned how the Trump administration is trying to redefine an animal’s habitat as an already existing habitat only. With the fires destroying huge tracts of animal habitat, where are animals supposed to go?

Finding Solutions

It’s clear that all the stakeholders, environmentalists, forestry management and companies, the federal government, farmers, homeowners and more need to be included in the conversation about animal habitats. One vital piece that often goes missing from these conversations is the legitimate interests of animals. As Bozemann, MT mediators with a long history of engaging with environmental issues and mediating disputes involving water, land and animal rights, the mediators at BCS have discovered that the interests of animals themselves must be grasped to have any kind of success in resolving disputes. Animals are participants in complex ecosystems with humans, so if environmental scientists are not consulted on the rights of animals decisions can have catastrophic consequences. It’s important to note that these consequences affect humans too. This is because we too are animals participating in complex ecosystems.

Take new research about beaver habitats which shows that beaver activities protect areas from fire. Or think back to the choice that was presented between destroying the Joshua trees and building a green energy plant. The carbon sequestered in the soil would be released when the trees were destroyed, making it obvious that this black and white choice didn’t achieve a net positive for the environment, for animals and humans. Given that many species thrive in burnt habitats and can restore health to burnt areas, it’s important to take a second look at quick fix solutions like logging burnt trees. There many other delicate conservation decisions such as the issue of controlled burns that are better worked out in a context such as mediation.

Decisions made about federal lands must also benefit the local wildlife and people living there, and for that all stakeholders must come together. At Boileau Conflict Solutions we use mathematically based conflict resolution approaches based in game theory and other approaches that are psychoanalytically and mathematically informed and proven to deliver results that go beyond limited, binary choices. These approaches consider the legitimate life interests of non-human animals with the understanding that without considering their interests, the equation will fail. Animals will die unnecessarily and the eco-system will become dangerously unbalanced. As Montana mediators we understand the grandeur and beauty of the natural environment in the West and its enormous value to animals and humans. We are financial experts, in addition to our other skillsets as legal professionals and psychoanalytical experts. We conduct thorough analysis and fact-finding to allow us to consider the interests of all parties and to craft realistic, long lasting agreements. Through the process of thorough analysis and mediation we find that even incompatible viewpoints can find common cause in our stewardship of the environment and the animals who live there.

Who We Are and How We Can Help

We are Bozemann mediators and negotiators with financial, legal, and psychological backgrounds who can analyze your environmental conflict and provide win-win solution sets, using analysis, consultation, mediation, or negotiation. At Boileau Conflict Solutions we are a group of caring and well-educated mediators and negotiators with financial, legal and psychological backgrounds. We maintain that animals are important stakeholders in our culture and should be represented fairly in conflict. The first step to successfully mediating a dispute involving animals is recognizing that animals have legitimate life interests. In the legal system, animals are treated like property. By considering the best interests of animals, parties don’t have to remain locked in intractable positions with animals as property or collateral. Animal Rights mediation solves a huge range of disputes but also future-proofs disputes by coming to good agreements that pave the way for positive change in animal treatment. We mediate disputes involving domestic and wild animals. Some of the areas covered include disputes with breed clubs, contract problems between owners and handlers, conflicts with trainers, groomers and veterinarians, noise problems with barking dogs and other animals, family and divorce pet “custody” battles and much more. We handle disputes using a set of unique approaches informed by game theory, communication theory, psychoanalysis and the law. Key to our approach is recognizing all interests involved in a dispute and moving towards a sustainable solution that respects all life interests. We value non-violent resolutions if at all possible and can intervene in urgent situations, even where conflict is violent, and can prevent harm to animals by facilitating alternative solutions to animal control etc. During the Coronavirus crisis we are offering accessible, safe remote mediations via videoconferencing

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