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The First Resource, Wild Species in the North American Economy.

The value of wild natural resources to human well being is often taken for granted, even though such things are included as fishes, seaweeds, forests, wildlife, and the like. Putting all of it into perspective, however, is "The First Resource, Wild Species in the North American Economy" by Christine Prescott-Allen and Robert Prescott-Allen and published by the Yale University Press, 92A Yale Station, New Haven, CT 06520, in cooperation with the World Wildlife Fund.

The book is probably the first scholarly and systematic analysis of the economic importance of "wildlife" to North America, both today and in the past, though it will be of interest to many others besides just economists. Here, the term "wildlife" or "wild species" is used in its broadest sense to include not only wild game animals, but game fishes, commercial fishes, furbearers, creatures for the pet trade, forests, bees, and other plants that may or may not be domesticated, including seaweeds, and marine and terrestrial species used or studied for medicinal purposes.

The authors have reviewed and analyzed much data from agricultural, aquacultural, medical, industrial, trade, and recreational sources in providing a comparison of the contributions of both wild and domesticated species to the total resource supply of a highly developed economy. In addition, they have evaluated the contributions of "wildlife" to the supply of foods and raw materials, compared past and current rates of domestication of wild species as new crops or livestock, and have included data on the wild species utilized in the United States for medicinal purposes.

In addition, the authors evaluate the contribution of the wild genetic resources to current crop production and estimate the value of crops that depend on wild insects for pollination. Also reviewed are the esthetic or recreational uses of wild creatures-that is, such so-called "nonconsumptive" uses as whale watching, wildlife photography, etc. For example, the order of preference of Americans (likes and dislikes) shows trout and salmon ranking 6th and 7th, whale and walrus at 16th and 17th, and the shark on the dislike end of the scale at 26th just behind the skunk.

Following the analyses, the authors present a "biogeography of wildlife use," in which they strive to apply the economic values learned to determine the most important ecosystems, economically, and identify the main sectors using the wildlife associated with the particular ecosystems. They conclude, with three generalizations, that 1) the use of wildlife in general is highly predictable (there is little that is truly new), 2) but in specific terms, predictability is low (a computer probably will not tell us which species in which ecosystem will be the next "miracle" food or medicine), and 3) sudden change in socioeconomic conditions can drastically alter the future of a resource for good or ill. Data on marine fishes are included in chapters on recreational wildlife uses and fishing, in which they assess landings, values, imports, and industrial products of the United States.

Clearly, wild things are of great value to U.S. society; over several thousand years we really have not gotten far removed from our traditional reliance on the original sources of foods, furs, fibers, fuels, medicines, etc., though we have certainly learned to turn them into a multitude of new forms. Readers will find that the book puts the U.S. utilization of wild creatures into a unique and useful perspective and it should give a far better appreciation for their true values. Indexed, the 529-page hardbound volume costs $62.00.
COPYRIGHT 1988 U.S. Department of Commerce
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Marine Fisheries Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1988
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