To reach its potential wildlife management needs a coherent purpose. Traditional divisions between science, society, and nature, however, create conflicts between responsibility to science, the public, and nature. These divisions emerged as early as Plato's (400 BC) allegory of the cave. In Plato's allegory human society existed inside a cave formed by its own delusions, and a philosopher or scientist could leave the cave and apprehend reality in nature. Wildlife management's simultaneous responsibility to public preferences, objective truth, and biotic integrity provides the foundation for a conservation worldview capable of transcending the divisions embodied in Plato's allegory. In this paper we deconstruct the conflicted worldview standing on that foundation and describe a land community–based worldview for wildlife management that could replace it. The transition from traditional views of science, society, and nature to a land community worldview requires 1) changing scientific stewardship from seeking objective truth to seeking credible truth, 2) changing political stewardship from following societal dictates to representing wildlife within the land community, and 3) changing ethical stewardship from protecting biotic integrity to fighting permanent closure of land community boundaries. Adopting a land community worldview for wildlife management requires relinquishing the illusion of absolute objectivity and a fall from status as neutral arbiters of knowledge but provides a means for honorably seeking reliable knowledge, serving the public and respecting the land community.
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Vol. 71 • No. 8