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The interpretation of administrative policies is of great importance in contemporary public law. The correct approach to policy interpretation has, however, been subject to insufficient academic scrutiny. The effect of policies is to provide guidance: not only to decision-makers, but also to stakeholders in the decision. Obvious stakeholders include the applicant or the individual who is the subject of the administrative decision, but the scope of potential legitimate stakeholders may go far beyond this. In matters of general interest, the broader public may be guided by policy (for instance, whether to object to a proposal during a consultation exercise, or on what basis to object). When considering how policy should be interpreted, the court should have regard to the extent of the appropriate audience of the policy, specifically considering how the least expert reader of the policy would interpret it. This ‘least expert reader principle’ will assist in answering difficult questions, such as whether the court should have regard to the underlying evidence base when interpreting a policy. The courts should rely upon, and express their reasoning by reference to, the least expert reader principle, in order to increase the transparency of judgments in the field of policy interpretation.
Effective species conservation depends upon correctly identifying the threats
that cause decline or hinder recovery. Because estimates of the relative
viability of different populations of Endangered African wild dogs Lycaon pictus are most strongly influenced by adult
and pup mortality, we analysed rates and causes of mortality in eight wild dog
populations under study in southern and eastern Africa. The probabilities of
detecting wild dog deaths were influenced by the monitoring methods used. The
least biased estimates of mortality causes were obtained through intensive
monitoring of radio-collared individuals; this is impossible for pups, however.
Mortality patterns varied substantially between populations. Rates of
human-caused mortality were higher for wild dogs radio-collared outside
protected areas than for those collared inside, but rates of natural mortality
were comparable, suggesting that anthropogenic mortality is additive to natural
mortality. The relative importance of factors such as snaring and infectious
disease also varied regionally. Hence, although our analyses identified no new
threats beyond those highlighted in a 1997 range-wide Action Plan, they suggest
that local plans will be valuable to target conservation activities more
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