Stewardship of God's gifts in the natural world is a multi-faceted duty. It should be approached and implemented with knowledge, perception, and responsibility. Scripture's guidelines include Psalm 8:6-9: "You made him ruler over the works of your hands: you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (NIV). Application of environmental responsibility has proven to be an achievable goal, but not an easy one. It is necessary to study the impact of our actions on both the land and living things. When ignorance, convenience, or profit prevails over wise care, the price may be too high.
Many examples of wildlife management could be cited as encouraging success stories. Others are still debated even as the effects worsen. For instance, at our family's summertime residence in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, we watched three handsome rhododendrons reduced to bare branches by ravenous deer. In the surrounding woods, a well-defined browse line appeared where deer had consumed virtually all the vegetation from ground to shoulder height. Some deer even became indifferent to our presence as we hiked the trails. They appeared scrawny and lacked vigor; even hunters avoided those pathetic specimens. Deer now have few natural predators due to increased human presence. Some vocal public advocates oppose efforts to reduce the deer population even through prudent herd reduction. Vehicle damage and loss of human life from collisions with animals are all too frequent tragedies. Since 1900, the U. S. deer population has increased roughly one hundred-fold.
Debates rage between advocates of herd reduction and those who believe all hunting is cruel. Attitudes toward harvesting animals for food, and sometimes even angling for panfish, have been impacted by such factors as the Disney release of Bambi. The "Bambi syndrome" describes the unfounded public sentimentality over the death of any animal in the wild for any purpose. Extreme environmentalists lobby for unrealistic limits on harvest, sometimes supported by the courts. Add to this the influence of naturalism infecting our culture in which the value of animal life is not distinct from the value of human life created in the image of God. These issues are complex and difficult. Genesis 1:28b says, "Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." The word "rule" must be understood in connection with our best interests; these animals were created for our benefit. Thankfulness for God's provisions and respect for His guidelines must prevail.