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Analysis: As more species become endangered, should we decide to allow some to go extinct?

One day last spring, Lisa Crampton stood at the base of a tall ohia tree, deep in the forested interior of Kauai. That morning, Crampton and five other field biologists had spent two hours hiking to a narrow clearing, where a hovering helicopter airdropped a large aluminum ladder. Although the distance from the clearing to the tree was comparatively short, it took the team most of the morning to maneuver the ladder across a stream, through the brush and up a steep slope. During that time, it also started to rain.

Ohia trees are tall and spindly, with a flowering red crown that spreads out in twiggy filaments. The object of the team’s efforts was a scraggly nest, about two inches wide, that was gusting around at the end of a branch four stories overhead. Peering up at it, Crampton frowned. “It’s pretty high up,” she said. “Do you think we can get the ladder close enough on this slope?”


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