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A Hegemonic Political Ecology with its Biopolitical Basis in Yellowstone’s Native Fish Conservation Plan

Authors: Harold Perkins*, Ohio University
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Environment, Animal Geographies
Keywords: biopolitics, conservation, hegemony, political ecology, trout
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Officials in Yellowstone National Park implement a Native Fish Conservation Plan since 2010 to control translocated fish species competing with ‘native’ species like Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Per the plan, millions of lake trout are removed from Yellowstone Lake while park streams are poisoned to eradicate translocated species including rainbow trout. Killing trout intentionally introduced by park officials decades earlier is a significant reversal in fisheries management. This paper employs a biopolitical perspective to analyze data derived qualitatively from semi-structured interviews with scientists, parks officials, business owners, and anglers, as well as analysis of relevant documents, and participant observation in the field. The results reveal a diversity of sometimes antagonistic stakeholders subjecting themselves to the practice of killing formerly revered fish based on truth claims circulating around the crisis-based conservation of ‘native’ fish populations and ecosystem health. Subjectification of stakeholders to logics of killing is based in their engagements with fish, leading to a multiplicity of biopolitical motivations in Yellowstone. From this multiplicity of motivations emerges a conservation hegemon where power over life and death is enacted in many corners of the biosocial collective, but trends toward dominant knowledge and practice vested in the National Park Service. Theorizing killing for conservation as a hegemonic political ecology re-conceptualizes the space-times of species outside of problematic dichotomies like native and non-native. Instead, species are either hegemonic or counter-hegemonic based on their positions relative to the conservation hegemon. Revealing stakeholder motivations provides an alternative pathway for evaluating the practice of killing for conservation.

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