The Condor Game

Bases Loaded; Can Anybody Get Home?

Everybody uses sport analogies for just about everything, so let's try one for California condor recovery. If saving the condors from extinction, and then developing self-sustaining populations, was like baseball, there would be a lot of league history associated with it.

*For the first 80 years or so (1850-1930), with absolutely no support from The League or the fans, the Home Team (the Condors) never won a game.

*Beginning in the 1930s under new management (John Baker, Joseph Grinnell, Cyril Robinson, Aldo Leopold, etc.), the next 45 years were better - not great, characterized by lots of ups and downs, but enough good playing (field research done, sanctuaries established, public awareness increased) at the right time for the Condors to actually squeak into the Series.

*The Condors managed to barely stay in the Series, but The Other Team (government agencies and conservation organizations) - in an amazing display of Inertia - still managed to lead by a run, going into the bottom of the Ninth in Game Seven.

*At that point (the late 1970s), The Condors came up to bat in what might be their last gasp in their last game.

And they hit a single. (The captive breeding proposal is finally approved.) One on, no outs.

Then, a messy out. (Fish and Wildlife Service and National Audubon, following a series of bad decisions, delayed action on the condor recovery efforts more than five years.) One out, one on.

Another hit. (The captive breeding program well underway, with good success.) Two on, one out.

Pop fly, second out, runners on base couldn't advance. (Miscellaneous problems with captive-reared birds acclimating to the wild; worry about lead poisoning.) Two on, two out.

A third hit. (Captive breeding going well; release issues being resolved; first breeding in the wild.) Two out, bases loaded.

* * *

Which brings us to today, January 2015, in a make-or-break situation for The Condors. A third out will end the current dream - and maybe any future dreams. A hit could win this particular game, and maybe open the door to even bigger victories in the future. As in every Big Game, the question of win or loss will likely be determined by STRATEGY. Here's the situation:

Scheduled to hit is the bottom of the order: a good enough player, but with a low batting average, and a record of not taking chances. He certainly could bring a runner home to tie the game, but...

(In condor recovery, he represents those who won't admit that "the lead issue" may not be what they have assumed. They will continue to wait for the lead restrictions to "work" - even though most indications are that they won't - and they will continue to be unwilling to tackle what may be the hard questions of what is really going on. While they wait, they put all future condor reintroductions on hold, even though there may be no reason to delay. This might turn out to be an okay strategy, but... ).

There is an alternative available: a pinch hitter. He doesn't play much, and has been known to strike out, but when he gets a hit, it is often a home run. And it seems like many of his home runs come in the most crucial situations. He could strike out, but...

(The Pinch Hitter represents those who see questions about the current condor program, who want to actively seek answers to the apparent/assumed problems. Maybe those answers won't be necessary, but they look important to me. In any event - and here the baseball analogy breaks down - searching for, and maybe finding, better answers is not likely to lose the game. Despite all the good work done toward condor recovery, there has never been a guarantee that The Condors will ultimately win.)

What strategy will The Managers employ?


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Sanford Wilbur 2021