The wildlife management controversy over the deer on the Kaibab
Plateau, north of the Grand Canyon, remains one of the best-known
examples of nature's balance being upset by human efforts to
protect a certain aspect of nature. The controversy involves an
apparent deer population explosion and crash on the Kaibab Plateau
in the 1920s, which was initially blamed on the removal of natural
In the first comprehensive account of the Kaibab deer controversy,
Christian C. Young describes the interactions, rivalries, and
conflicts between state and federal agencies, scientists, nature
lovers, conservationists, and hunters. Young blends a
contextualized history of events with a new and more useful
understanding about the promise of scientific knowledge in the face
of factual uncertainty and public controversy.
Scientists and historians have used this case to illustrate the
difficulties of controlling wild populations. Their message is
typically one of failure, and the reason most often given centers
on our lack of knowledge of the natural world. As such, the burden
of failure seems to rest on scientists, who work diligently but
always seem to offer too little too late in the way of practical
advice. Since our knowledge of the natural world will always be
incomplete, Young argues that our ability to investigate nature
requires flexible and interactive management plans. He shows how
earlier "truths" learned on the Kaibab came to be recognized as
myths and offers a compelling lesson about how science and society
interact within challenging contexts of disagreement.
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